Warwickshire charity celebrates 10 years of supporting more than 16,000 children across the UK

Warwickshire charity celebrates 10 years of supporting more than 16,000 children across the UK

“Molly was the reason I started the Charity…when she died, I just knew I needed to help other children like her. Knowing we have made the dark days brighter for more than 16,000 young people is what drives me and the Charity forwards.”

Rachel and Tim Ollerenshaw
Rachel and Tim Ollerenshaw with the familiar Molly Olly’s pink van.

Rachel Ollerenshaw and her husband, Tim set up Molly Ollys not long after their daughter, Molly died from a rare kidney cancer. Ten years ago this month, the Charity was officially registered and for such a small charity of only three staff and eight regular volunteers, it certainly punches above its weight.

The Charity emotionally supports children between 0 and 18 who have life-threatening illnesses. It does that through its Olly The Brave therapeutic soft toy and award-winning books, as well as donating wishes to children who are facing unimaginable challenges.

To date, more than 16,000 children have been supported all over the UK; more than 13,000 Olly books and toys have reached children at over 70 hospitals and more than £3 million has been raised.

Molly Olly's Wishes, Rachel Ollerenshaw, anniversary
Magnolia House

One of the Charity’s proudest achievements has been funding a Consultant in Paediatric Palliative Medicine at Birmingham Children’s Hospital for the past three years. After demonstrating the effectiveness of the role and significantly changing the experience for all those who have benefitted from the service, it is now being funded centrally by the NHS.

Rachel explains with pride; “Whilst working with Birmingham Children’s Hospital on the Magnolia House project, we learnt that there was no Consultant in paediatric Palliative medicine for the area…the position just did not exist. There are only approximately 20 in the whole of the UK. We live in Warwickshire where there is one and so we knew the benefits and importance when we nursed Molly at home.

“We decided we would raise the funds and directly pay for a Palliative Consultant for Birmingham to help provide the best care for children with palliative care needs. It is fabulous to see what a real difference this role has made and is making to children’s lives.“

Dr Yifan Liang is that consultant and she knows just how crucial her position is; “Families and clinicians are often anxious about a referral to the palliative care team because so often they worry that this is just about end of life. Whereas my role is about making it possible for children to have to have the best life that they can, rather than necessarily about how long their life is. A lot of my job is about making sure that the children are comfortable; that they have their symptoms controlled; that they have access to activities and how to help them make the most of life.”

Molly aged eight.

Through the success of this palliative post for patients, the hospital has taken on another palliative consultant and they have the opportunity to become a training hospital in the future, once they secure more funding.

Magnolia House is another project that Molly Ollys supported that opened in February 2017. The Charity worked with health professionals at Birmingham Children’s Hospital to create and furnish Magnolia House at a cost of £45K. This has given the hospital a safe, non-clinical and comforting space where medical teams and families can have important discussions about diagnosis, treatment and end-of-life care.

More than 2,500 wishes have also been granted all over the UK since the Charity began in 2012. Each wish the Charity donates is unique like each child and over the years, there have been many weird and wonderful wishes delivered. One teenage boy who was a big fan of police interceptors asked to be arrested by police as his wish and of course, the Charity made sure that happened.

Rachel remembers it well: “This was certainly an unusual one but very special. We helped organise a 16th Birthday party for the boy and the police turned up at his party and arrested him in front of all his friends and family which he was delighted about.”

Molly Olly's Wishes, Rachel Ollerenshaw, anniversary
Ella Richards, from Henley-in-Arden, underwent six months of treatment

One child the Charity recently supported with a wish was Ella Richards from Warwickshire who was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma when she was 15. Ella faced a serious health battle, but after six months of chemo, she was given the all clear. Molly Ollys gifted her a £500 Bullring shopping voucher which she spent on fake eyelashes and eyebrow treatments after losing her hair, as well as a lovely bracelet which has 10 carefully chosen charms symbolising every step of her cancer journey.

Mum Melanie said: “Ella had the gift voucher at the time she was at her lowest and weakest, it gave her such a boost and such a focus. To be honest she would have really struggled without it, it brought light to a dark place.”

Ella – now 17 – remembers the gift well: “Molly Ollys helped me through the chaos of my diagnosis and chemotherapy, their gift gave me something to really look forward to.

Thanks to the Charity I could enjoy going out shopping and forget the worries and stress of cancer and feel like a normal teenager again.”

Read more about Ella’s story here

Supporting children and their families emotionally and financially is the key purpose of Molly Ollys and their strapline – which still rings true 10 years after it started – is ‘making the dark days brighter.’

Over the years, Olly The Brave soft toy lion has helped support thousands of children, normalising the effects of chemo and comforting them when they were afraid. Olly has his own Hickman line and a detachable mane with different coloured manes to change Olly into. This helps children to feel ok when they lose their hair and if it grows back differently, they can put a fun one on Olly.

Molly Olly's Wishes, Rachel Ollerenshaw, anniversary
Flo Stokes with Big Olly The Brave.

Six-year-old Flo Stokes from Atherstone has high risk Neuroblastoma which is quick spreading and has a high rate of relapse. She’s undergoing intense chemotherapy treatment and Olly has helped her enormously.

Her mum Hannah: “Flo adores Olly. He has really helped her to understand what would be happening to her as he has ‘wigglies’ just like Flo and he’s lovely to snuggle up to. Flo loves Olly so much that she entered a raffle to win a big Olly at Birmingham Children’s Hospital and she won! Big Olly sleeps in bed with her and she sits on him to watch TV at home.

“The concept of Olly The Brave is a really good idea, a really simple way to get it over to the children in a non-medical and comforting way. It’s a work of genius and the Charity deserves all the support it can get.”

Flo’s family are trying to raise £250,000 to take her to America for a vaccine which they hope will save her life. To donate, please visit here

Molly Olly's Wishes, Birmingham Children's Hospital, anniversary
The charity works closely with Birmingham Children’s Hospital

In 2022, Birmingham Children’s Hospital wants to train two more palliative clinicians at its centre of excellence and Molly Ollys will be focusing its efforts on raising the funding to enable this to happen so that more palliative care teams can support more families across the UK.

For further information about the charity or to donate, visit here

New executive chef heralds growth of popular café bar

New executive chef heralds growth of popular café bar

Revive Cafe Bar, Cats Bernal, Comedy at Work, menu

A popular café bar has welcomed a new executive chef as part of plans to expand its offering just six months after opening its doors to customers in Warwick.

Revive Café and Bar in Smith Street unveils its new menu under Filipino Catalino Bernal, formerly head chef at the nearby Pickled Crab.

Diners are now able to choose from new dishes including steaks, ribs, risotto and wider vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free selection. A new range of bar snacks has also been introduced.

And there’s even more time to enjoy it thanks to extended opening hours to now offer evening service on Wednesday to Sunday, serving food all day.

Revive marks the second project – and a new direction – for owner James Byrne, from Warwick, who decided to convert the former Furniture Shop below his software business, AccountancyManager, before opening in June last year.

James said: “We opened Revive with the vision of creating a location for people of all ages to enjoy, offering a combination of great coffee, tasty food and enjoyable games.

“We hadn’t appreciated how the local community would embrace us, with customers being kind with their feedback and rewarding us with their repeat custom.

“In 2022 we intend to build on this by giving more to our customers. We’re positive that these changes will continue to improve Revive’s customer experience. We look forward to seeing all our existing customers and meeting new ones very soon.

Catalino Bernal, from Warwick- also known as ‘Cats’ – has spent 25 years working in restaurant kitchens at home and abroad, including the prestigious Shangri-La Hotel in The Philippines and, locally, The Saxon Mill in Warwick and The Orange Tree, in Chadwick End.

Revive Cafe Bar, Cats Bernal, Comedy at Work, menu

Of his latest move, he said: “I’m excited by the opportunity to join Revive as I believe the venue is offering something unique to the local area, and I’ll be looking to enhance this with my cooking.

“Some dishes draw inspiration to the flavours I grew up with in the Philippines, whereas other dishes are more local favourites as well as increasing the range of vegan options.”

Hidden at the back of Revive is the venue’s pièce de résistance – the games room housing darts, ping pong, table football and pool. The games tables can be booked in half-hour slots through the website or in person.

Revive Cafe Bar, Cats Bernal, Comedy at Work, menu
Fennel and Chilli Squid

This space also hosts the venue’s increasingly popular live entertainment evenings – karaoke, open mic and stand-up comedy, with quiz nights soon also to be added to the events ‘menu.’

James added: “Our events calendar looks bigger and better in 2022, with comedy nights returning on the first Thursday of every month hosted by Comedy At Work. We will also continue the Open Mic nights hosted by Dan Sealey, former bass guitarist of Ocean Colour Scene and karaoke nights. In addition, this year, we will be introducing quiz nights using the speed quizzing format, a fast-paced quiz that all ages will enjoy.”


Revive Cafe Bar, Cats Bernal, Comedy at Work, menu
Crispy Duck Salad

The next events lined up are an Open Mic Night on Friday, January 28th (no tickets required) and a Comedy Night at 7pm on Thursday, February 3rd. Tickets for this can be booked via here

Revive Café and Bar is now open even longer, from 8am-6pm Monday and Tuesday, 8am-11pm Wednesdays to Saturdays and 9am-10pm on Sundays.

Visit here to check out the menu or to book a games table. Group bookings can be made by calling 01926 403 333.

Final appeal to support fundraising campaign in memory of late friend

Final appeal to support fundraising campaign in memory of late friend

FUNDRAISERS have amassed more than £115k in memory of their friend Worcestershire fruit farmer Colin Broomfield, to support a brain tumour charity established by England cricketer Ashley Giles and his wife Stine.

Members of ‘Team Colin’ are appealing for final donations for The Giles Trust Brain Tumour Fund before closing the fundraising campaign next month (February), which marks the second anniversary of his death.

The Giles Trust Brain Tumour Fund, Ashley Giles, Stine Giles, charity, Colin Broomfield
From left – Joe, Colin, Fiona and Chloe Broomfield.

Owner of Broomfield’s Farm in Holt Heath, Colin died in February 2020, aged 52, almost two years after being diagnosed with a terminal Glioblastoma brain tumour.

The Giles Trust Brain Tumour Fund was founded in 2015 by former England cricketer and now England’s Director of Cricket, Ashley Giles MBE and his wife Stine following her own multiple battles with the disease.

In the first year of fundraising for The Giles Trust, Team Colin have exceeded their original £70,000 target to raise lost funds due to the pandemic.

A close friend of Colin’s for more than 40 years, Ivor Allchurch, said: “Myself and another close friend of Colin’s, Jim Weston, got talking after the funeral about doing some fundraising and Colin’s wife Fiona said she would like it to benefit The Giles Trust because they knew Ashley and Stine Giles from Bromsgrove School and Stine had been helpful in supporting and giving her advice.

“The original £70,000 target was set because that is the amount the charity would have raised at the Giles Trust Gala Dinner which had to be cancelled due to lockdown.”

Jim Weston’s Broom Wagon Wobblers raised more than half of the total in a cycle challenge in May last year.

Jim said: “The Wobblers just needed a good excuse to get fitter and what was going to be four of us turned into 14. It was a good way to remember Colin, has given us all some great muddy memories and raised some funds towards the great work that the Giles’ Trust do.

“Colin was one of the good guys, great fun and a true friend. He was fit and healthy until he was diagnosed with a brain tumour.
The Giles Trust Brain Tumour Fund, Ashley Giles, Stine Giles, charity, Colin Broomfield

Other support included £10,000 raised from a fundraising dinner hosted by a group of Worcestershire businessmen who call themselves ‘The Fine Fourteen’ and digital support from another of Colin’s friends Steve Thomas.

Fundraising is being encouraged until the end of February in all forms, including social and sporting events – or donations here.

In 2006, Ashley Giles rushed back from Australia, where he had been part of the Ashes team, to be with his wife, Stine, who had been diagnosed with a brain tumour. It was removed successfully, but the family were devastated to learn in 2012 that more tumours had developed. In 2018, Stine was diagnosed with another tumour that required immediate treatment – and thanks to the world-class experts at QEHB, her outcome was positive.

Stine became one of the first people in the country to be treated with the
TomoTherapy machine, which had been purchased by the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham (QEHB) Charity just weeks before. Without it, she had few treatment options available to her.

Experiencing first-hand how important research and cutting-edge equipment was, Stine vowed that if her treatment was successful and her prognosis was good, she would endeavour to raise funds for brain tumour research.

Since then it has raised more than £800,000, some of which has funded a full-time research nurse post which is helping to transform clinical research in neuro-oncology at the University Hospitals Birmingham.

As a charity the Trust operates in the medical research sector, working closely with frontline specialists, consultants, and clinicians. This helps them to target their funding to where it is needed most, including a pioneering surgical navigation system which is translating into improved patient outcomes and more rapid recovery times.

The Giles Trust Brain Tumour Fund, Ashley Giles, Stine Giles, charity, Colin Broomfield
Ivor and Colin

Dr Sara Meade. Oncology Consultant at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham where Colin was treated, said: “The impact from the Giles’ Trust has been incredible. The contribution from the charity has significantly impacted on the delivery of the highest standard of care in this patient group. The benefits of the Giles’ Trust donations have been felt by patients and staff.”

More information about The Giles Trust Brain Tumour Fund and details about how to help or donate, can be found here.

Ivor Allchurch added: “Colin was a charismatic kind and loving man and this fundraising is also our way of celebrating his life.

“Despite Colin having received fantastic treatment and fighting extremely hard, there’s still a long way to go in advancing the treatment of this disease and raising awareness.

He added: “Fiona has had to pick up the reins herself to keep the business going. This was very challenging for her as, like every other business, it was experiencing the effects on trading left by the pandemic, but two years later the business continues successfully and is supported greatly by the local community.

“Colin would be incredibly proud of what Fiona’s done and of his son Joe and daughter Chloe for the way they’ve coped.”

(Review) If you go down to The Hippodrome today. . .

(Review) If you go down to The Hippodrome today. . .

Goldilocks and The Three Bears, Birmingham Hippodrome, review
The cast of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Picture by Simon Hadley.

Review by Clare Brennan

THERE haven’t been many times in my life when a show has genuinely left me speechless, but Goldilocks and The Three Bears at the Birmingham Hippodrome is so good it’s almost difficult to put into words – oh yes it is. . .

For my family and I the magic started long before the curtain rose.  Being our first night out at the theatre in a very long time, just taking our seats in the auditorium was exciting enough. But our first glimpse of the set – a circus-themed kaleidoscope of colour and light – showed we were in for something rather special.

From the opening number, this show is an absolute delight. It’s two-and-a-half hours of colour, music and pure fun. Yes, it’s a panto, but it’s also so much more than that!

Goldilocks and The Three Bears, Birmingham Hippodrome, review
Andrew Ryan as Dame Betty Barnum in Goldilocks and the Three Bears. 20 September 2021. Picture by Simon Hadley.

There were showgirls, acrobats, circus performers, a magician and daredevil motorcycle stunt riders, who brought the audience to their feet for a standing ovation long before the final curtain.

The fun-filled story follows the adventures of Dame Betty Barnum (Andrew Ryan) and her daughter Goldilocks (Samantha Dorrance) whose circus is under threat from rival circus owner, the Evil Ringmaster (Jason Donovan). Cue a madcap mission to rescue their Big Top from ruin. Will they succeed? – Oh Yes they Will. . .

I cried laughing at Matt Slack, who was without doubt, the star of the show as Ringo The Ringmaster. His comic genius borrowed from some of the all-time greats of light entertainment was sometimes risque, but perfectly positioned for this family audience.

Former Neighbours actor and 80s heartthrob Jason Donovan was deliciously devilish, marking his pantomime debut as Count Ramsey of Erinsborough, and Andrew Ryan’s portrayal as the vibrant yet endearing Dame Betty Barnum was exquisite.

And if it’s tapdancing bears you’re after(!) The Brummie Bears trio of Ewan Goddard, Georgie Anderson and Jessica Daugirda is an irresistible delight. And Samantha Dorrance brings a fresh-faced charm to the iconic title role.

At just a couple of weeks shy of her fifth birthday my youngest daughter was perhaps a little young to enjoy it all, my eldest daughter, aged ten, was in her element – shouting out, singing and gasping in awe. It was wonderful to be able to share the joy of theatre with them both again.

You might be forgiven for thinking that the show’s description as ‘The Greatest Panto on Earth’ is a bold one – but the team behind this exceptional extravaganza have more than justified this billing.

This circus-themed spectacle proves to be a night of magnificent family fun we won’t forget in a hurry – and the perfect antidote to blowing away those post-Christmas – and pandemic – blues.

Goldilocks and The Bears runs at the Birmingham Hippodrome until Sunday, 30 January. For tickets call 0844 338 5000 or visit here.

Alcester liqueur wins international acclaim in entertainment capital of the world

Alcester liqueur wins international acclaim in entertainment capital of the world

ARISTOCRATIC entrepreneurs from Alcester are celebrating further international success for their liqueur within the first 18 months of trading.

The Las Vegas Global Spirits Gold Award becomes the latest in a series of prestigious industry accolades for St Maur Elderflower Liqueur, produced by William and Kelsey Seymour, Earl and Countess of Yarmouth.

St Maur, Las Vegas, award
Kelsey and William Seymour

Chosen among 700 entries, the award now proudly sits alongside Best English Floral in the World Liqueur Awards, Great Taste Award 2 Star rating and an International Spirits Challenge Silver Award for the product, launched in lockdown.

William, who grew up at Ragley Hall in Warwickshire and is the eldest son of the Marquess of Hertford, said: “Perhaps, winning industry awards in North America could be considered a little bit ahead of the curve for a start-up craft drinks business from the heart of England, but we have big ambitions for St Maur as a brand, and we’re not afraid to put ourselves out there.

“It’s great to win an award and to be recognised on an international level. What’s important though is this also gives us the opportunity to let people closer to home, who have not tried our drink yet, know about St Maur. ‘Gold in Vegas!’ That can’t be bad!”

St Maur, Las Vegas, award

The judges were made up of a panel of highly respected and experienced experts in the spirits industry including journalists, distillers, mixologists, consultants, educators, bartenders, importers and brand ambassadors.

St Maur is a hand-crafted premium elderflower liqueur from the Heart of England which originated in a drink produced for guests on the couple’s wedding day four years ago.

It is described as ‘versatile and perfect for both sipping and mixing. A beautiful aperitif on its own and sublime in brunch and pre-dinner cocktails, any time of the year.’

St Maur, Las Vegas, award

From the recipe, to the ideas on the label, and the name itself, St Maur brings together 1,000 years of heritage and family.

Indeed, provenance is core to the brand. The map co-ordinates on the St Maur logo lead to Ladies Wood and an elder grove in the Ragley Woodlands, now in the stewardship of Earl of Yarmouth Estates. Here and in the hedgerows on their farm, in early summer, Seymour friends and family members can be found collecting the blossoms to fulfill the next year of orders.

There’s also a red-legged partridge on the bottle, a bird successfully introduced to England in the 19th century by an ancestor Francis Seymour, the 5th Marquess, and now the brand’s mascot.

St Maur, Las Vegas, award

Kelsey added: “There is a very obvious, but golden rule if you want to build a crafts drinks business – make sure you craft a good drink! Our purpose with St Maur is to offer ‘a little drop of England’s heart’ around the world, and if we are to live up to that accolade, we must make sure we offer a drink that is worthy of it. This was another opportunity to put our drink to the test, with industry experts, in one of the hospitality capitals of the world. We were delighted to win gold.”

Visit St Maur at: https://drinkstmaur.com/