Ben Foster shows his support for epic three-day charity cycle challenge

Ben Foster shows his support for epic three-day charity cycle challenge

Leamington-born former England footballer Ben Foster has shared a message of support to help propel fundraisers ahead of a gruelling 180-mile bike ride in aid of Warwick charity Molly Ollys.

Foster, himself an avid cyclist, produces a YouTube channel called The Cycling GK – and has put his weight behind the epic challenge, involving 52 riders from across the UK, via a special video message.

Months of training will culminate in the cyclists saddling up in York on Friday (July 9th) where they’ll be officially seen on their way by the city’s Sheriff, and follow a route through The Pennines and Derbyshire before arriving at The Durham Ox in Shrewley three days later.

Among the local riders taking part are Gurmukh Hayre and Adrian Baker from Knowle and Gerard O’Gorman from Solihull.

Gurmukh, who has been a trustee for the Molly Ollys for five years, said: “The charity does such fantastic work and being able to have some pleasure doing what you do as a hobby while also doing something good is a wonderful opportunity. To have an organised ride, which is not a road race but an event, offers a lot of camaraderie and friendship.

“We all stick together so when someone has a problem or gets a puncture we all rally round to help. The spirit is fantastic.

Gurmukh Hayre, Adrian Baker and Gerard O’Gorman

He added: “Unless you are an incredibly fit cyclist you relish the challenge of something like this, for most people the challenge is tackling the hills after you’ve already clocked up a lot of miles. It becomes a more of a mental challenge but you remember why you’re doing it and use that as your mental purpose which keeps you going.

“We always hope for dry weather but once you’re out, you’re out and you just deal with whatever comes your way. You just stick your waterproof in your back pocket!

Foster played football at Racing Club Warwick as a youngster before going on to professional goalkeeping, with spells at, among others, Manchester United, West Bromwich Albion, Birmingham City and Watford FC and made his England debut in 2007.

A previous supporter of the charity, he said: “I have been to one of the Molly Ollys Annual Balls in the past which was a great evening and I am aware of the wonderful work that the Charity does to emotionally support children across the UK with life-threatening illnesses.

“Having two children myself, I cannot begin to imagine to horror of being told your little one is seriously ill and not knowing if they will regain their health. I wish all of the cyclists taking part the very best of luck; 185 miles is tough but I know they will remember what Molly and all the other children have been through so they will complete the challenge and I hope they raise lots of money for Molly Ollys.”

Molly Ollys, Ben Foster, cycle ride
The team from Oakland International

Molly Olly’s Wishes was established in 2011 following the death of Rachel and Tim Ollerenshaw’s eight-year-old daughter Molly from a rare kidney cancer.

The Warwick-based charity, which this year marks its 10th anniversary, works to support children with terminal or life-threatening illnesses and their families and help with their emotional wellbeing as well as grant wishes and donate therapeutic toys and books to both children directly and to hospitals throughout the UK.

Mascot of the charity is a therapeutic toy lion called Olly The Brave who has his own Hickman line and a detachable mane which helps to explain and normalise the effects of chemotherapy. These form part of an Olly The Brave pack that has now been handed out to more than 40 hospitals, along with a book from the charity’s exclusive Olly The Brave series.

Part of more than £3m raised to date, has also been used to fund the first Molly Olly consultant in paediatric medicine at Birmingham Children’s Hospital.

Tim and Rachel chose York as the starting point as it was one of the last holidays they all spent together as a family with Molly.

Rachel said: “We decided to do this cycle event in 2022 to celebrate 10 years of Molly’s legacy. It is a special route for us as York is one of the last places we – as a family – visited before Molly died so it holds poignant memories.

“I am so delighted that so many people wanted to get involved and cycle more than 160 miles to raise funds for the Charity. It is outpourings of support like this that allow us to keep on making a difference to the lives of children with life-threatening illnesses.”

For more information or to make a donation, please visit www.mollyolly.co.uk

Friends climb back in the pedalo for canal fundraiser

Friends climb back in the pedalo for canal fundraiser

PEDAL power will once again be driving two Warwickshire fundraisers who are preparing to travel ten miles along The Grand Union Canal – in a pedalo!

Friends Alex Pearson from Stratford and Emma Brayne from Warwick are preparing to navigate tunnels and locks as part of their intrepid challenge, in aid of local children’s charity Molly Ollys.

The pair, who will again be joined on their journey by Alex’s canine companions Archie and Chester, are hoping to beat last year’s total of £2,000, including match-funding by The Morrisons Foundation.

The fundraiser will take place on June 15th – a hugely significant date for the charity – the anniversary of eight-year-old Molly Ollerenshaw’s death. This year also marks the tenth anniversary of the charity.

The ladies, who have had the support of Leamington Boats and The Canal River Trust, will be pedalling between The View at Wootton Wawen and Hatton, where Molly’s family live. The end of the challenge will also be marked by a poignant release of 20 butterflies outside Hatton Café.

Molly Ollys, pedalo, Grand Union Canal, charity
Olly The Brave with Rachel Ollerenshaw, Emma Brayne, Alex Pearson, Adam Brayne and David Fletcher and dogs Archie and Chester

Alex, a community champion for Morrisons in Leamington, said: “At the store we really want to support our local charities and when I met Rachel it was emotional to hear Molly’s story. This is a great charity which supports so many children in both our community and around the country.

“Last year’s pedalo challenge was amazing. We just hope the weather is kind to us again this year! We’ll be trying to get in stretches and protein breaks along the way to help keep us going. Our main aim is to raise money and awareness for the charity but have some fun doing it. Last year we had a lot of laughs on the way.”

Collection tins will be in the store and there is the opportunity to find out more about the work of the charity on their stand throughout the week commencing June 20th.

Molly Ollys 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.

Between 2017 and 2020, the charity funded Birmingham’s first paediatric palliative consultant as there was no such consultant for the region. That position has now become permanent and is currently funded through the NHS.

The charity works alongside the NHS to support projects within the hospitals and the community. One key project was the creation and refurbishment of Magnolia House at Birmingham Children’s Hospital. This is a safe and non-clinical space where medical teams and families can have important discussions.

Molly’s mum and the charity’s Founder Rachel Ollerenshaw, said: “This will be a bittersweet day for me as the 15th June is the date Molly passed away 11 years ago.

“Alex and Morrisons Leamington have been such great supporters of ours for the past couple of years and following the success of last year’s pedalo challenge, Alex was keen to offer her fundraising support again. She seems to enjoy putting herself through pain! We are cheering her and Emma on from the sidelines of the towpath.”

Molly Ollys, pedalo, Grand Union Canal, charity
Olly The Brave with David Fletcher, Adam Brayne, Alex Pearson, Rachel Ollerenshaw and Emma Brayne and dogs Archie and Chester

The girls will once again be supported by Alex’s friend David Fletcher and Emma’s husband Adam Brayne who will offer moral support and lock-keeping duties along the route – as well as raising money themselves. Donations for their sponsored 10-mile walk can be made here

Emma said: “Alex’s reputation for being so kind and generous precedes her and she has collaborated on a huge number of charitable events that I have ran. We have become somewhat of a double act!

“This year’s 10-mile course reflects the tenth anniversary of the charity. Half a kilometre of this epic journey involves travelling in complete darkness through Shrewley Tunnel which fills me with complete and utter dread, but I’m sure our strong will and determination will get us through to the light at the end of the tunnel!”

To support Alex and Emma, donations can be made here

Since Molly Ollys started more than £3 million has been raised to emotionally support children across the UK. Anyone wishing to donate can do here

Golfers invite everyone to pitch in to support fundraising challenge

Golfers invite everyone to pitch in to support fundraising challenge

When it comes to fundraising, two golfing friends from Warwickshire certainly aren’t playing around!

Pat Manning from Warwick and Bill Ryan from Leamington, are preparing to take on an epic 11-day golf challenge in aid of local children’s charity Molly Ollys later this month.

The pair are hoping to raise more than £4k as they walk 160 miles between 35 golf courses, stopping to play a hole at each.

Starting and finishing at Leamington & County Golf Club, they will follow a route via golf clubs across three counties, including Warwick, Kenilworth, Stoneleigh, Coventry, Sheldon, Solihull, Birmingham, Kings Norton, Bromsgrove, Redditch, Droitwich, Worcester, Evesham, Welford and Stratford-upon-Avon.

The challenge marks the first in a year of fundraising for Molly Ollys at the Leamington & County Golf Club, at which both men are longstanding members.

Molly Ollys, golf, fundraising

Bill, who is current club captain, said: “I have been looking at a number of charities to support throughout my year as Captain which was becoming a difficult decision as there are so many worthwhile causes.

“It became easier after meeting with the founder of Molly Olly Wishes who described to me the incredible work that they do for young children who are going through extremely difficult times.”

 

Pat, 59, and Bill, 62, are already clocking up the miles in preparation for the challenge, from March 14th which will see them cover an average of 15 miles a day, with clubs in tow.

Pat said: “We’ve done some fundraising but never staged anything quite like this before. We wanted to do something that’s not been done before but on a golfing theme. Playing 36 holes is a normal format in golf but I thought we could do it with a bit of a twist by making it an endurance test as well.

“The weather is predicted to pose the biggest potential problem. And, we’re hoping we don’t get any muscular injuries along the route. But whatever’s thrown at us we’ll get through it one way or another.”

Molly Ollys was established in 2011 following the death of Rachel and Tim Ollerenshaw’s eight-year-old daughter Molly from a rare kidney cancer.

Throughout the 10 years that the charity has been running, it has:-

  • granted more than 2,500 wishes
  • supported more than 16,000 children
  • distributed more than 13,000 Olly The Brave books to more than 70 hospitals
  • raised more than £3 million

Between 2017 and 2020, the charity funded Birmingham’s first paediatric palliative consultant as there was no such consultant for the region. That position has now become permanent and is currently funded through the NHS.

Molly Ollys, golf, fundraising
Rachel Ollerenshaw with charity mascot Olly The Brave

The charity works alongside the NHS to support projects within the hospitals and the community. One key project was the creation and refurbishment of Magnolia House at Birmingham Children’s Hospital. This is a safe and non-clinical space where medical teams and families can have important discussions.

The charity is well-known for its therapeutic toy lion, Olly The Brave, which has its own Hickman line and a detachable mane. The soft toy helps to explain and normalise the effects of chemotherapy. These form part of an Olly The Brave pack which includes a six-part book series. Further information is available here

Founder Rachel Ollerenshaw said: “Pat and Bill have certainly come up with a novel way to fundraise and one that will definitely be a challenge. The support from Leamington Golf Club and the wider golfing community to enable this event has been great and big thanks to everyone involved at the clubs and those who have donated.“

To sponsor Pat and Bill visit here

Dad’s marathon effort for Warwick charity which helped his son’s cancer battle – just months after losing his wife

Dad’s marathon effort for Warwick charity which helped his son’s cancer battle – just months after losing his wife

A Hereford dad is fundraising for a charity which supported his young son through cancer – just months after losing his wife to the same disease.

Breaking the news to eight-year-old Freddie that he had leukaemia was one of the darkest days of Jamie Gittins’ life. His sons were still grieving the death of mum Emma who had lost her four-year battle with breast cancer at the age of 41.

Molly Ollys, Jamie Gittins, Freddie Gittins, leukaemia, breast cancer
Jamie, Noah, Fred and the late Emma Gittins.

Despite receiving the all-clear in August 2018 after several rounds of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, Emma, who worked in HR, passed away on 30th March 2021 surrounded by friends and family in Hereford Hospital.

Now the dad of two is in training to take part in the Cardiff Half Marathon next month in aid of Molly Ollys, a charity he was introduced to whilst Freddie was undergoing treatment at Birmingham Children’s Hospital.

The Warwickshire-based charity granted a special wish for Freddie and his older brother Noah, 11, to receive VIP tickets to see WWE live wrestling as well as offering support in the form of their Olly The Brave cuddly lion and illustrated books.

Molly Ollys, Jamie Gittins, Freddie Gittins, leukaemia, breast cancer
Freddie Gittins with Olly The Brave.

Over the years, Olly The Brave 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.

Jamie, 40, said: “We took the decision early after Emma’s terminal diagnosis that we weren’t going to hide anything from the boys which is what we’ve done throughout.

“But telling them she had died was the toughest thing I’ve ever had to do. As soon as Em had had her terminal diagnosis, I played that conversation over in my head a million times. It absolutely broke their hearts. All the family were there because I said I didn’t think I could do it on my own. It’s not something you ever want to have to do.”

Molly Ollys, Jamie Gittins, Freddie Gittins, leukaemia, breast cancer
Noah, Freddie and Jamie Gittins

As well as cataloguing her cancer journey via a blog Boobs Behaving Badly, (https://www.facebook.com/boobsbehavingbadly) Emma spent the months leading up to her death, preparing special memory boxes for her sons.

“These are a massive help to them now,” said Jamie. “They include Build a Bear teddies with her voice recorded. They can squeeze the paw and listen to their mum. And keyrings with her thumb print on them so they can always hold her hand and some Brave Boys’ Club badges with motivational messages engraved on the back saying ‘you’re brave, you’re kind, you’re strong,’ “ said Jamie.

“Emma’s brother and I also pulled together some photos and the boys chose their own items such as a candle which had a scent which reminded them of their mum, as well as pieces of jewellery.”

Molly Ollys, Jamie Gittins, Freddie Gittins, leukaemia, breast cancer
Freddie and Noah Gittins at the WWE organised by Molly Ollys

Just three months after the funeral, which was restricted to 30 people by Covid regulations, more devastating news was to follow.

He said: “Freddie would come home from school and put the telly on and within five minutes he’d be asleep on the sofa. He had no energy and I just put it down to the fact that it was coming up to the end of the school year and everything that had happened with his mum. But then he started to get a yellow tinge on his skin and his eyes. I rang 111 and they told me to get him to hospital immediately.

“At that moment I was given the news about Freddie, in my head I thought, that’s it, he’s going to die. I went outside and spoke to family and friends and just said ‘I can’t do this. I haven’t got the strength.’ And I just sat all night watching him while he was sleeping.

“The oncologist told me that if you’re going to get leukaemia, the type Fred’s got, it is the best one to get. The success rate is over 90% for his age. It will be rough for a few months, but he will be OK. And at that point I was able to go, ‘OK, fine. I’ve just got to get on with this.’ “

There is now light at the end of the tunnel for the youngster who has undergone six months of intensive chemotherapy, but is now focusing on coming to terms with the huge hole in his life.

Jamie said: “We’ve just organised bereavement counselling for the boys because it has only just properly hit them that Em has gone. For Fred, throughout this, the one thing he’s been yearning for is a cuddle from mum.

“From my point of view, it’s been hard not having Emma to bounce off. In many ways, I wish she was here for support, but I’m also glad she’s not because I wouldn’t have wanted her to see Freddie go through this, especially when she had her own illness to contend with.”

Jamie, who is head of Kings Caple Primary School in Hereford, is hoping to hit his target of £2,000 at the half marathon on March 27th.

“Molly Ollys is amazing. With what they’ve done for us, I wanted to show my appreciation and give something back. There’s lots of big charities out there that get lots of funding, but it’s the smaller charities that really need our support.

“Olly The Brave is the most amazing thing for children going through cancer. Both the boys have always wanted to go to a live WWE show and they felt like VIPs. We were six rows back from the ring so everything was up close and personal and they got high fives from the wrestlers. It was an amazing experience. Seeing their faces when they walked into the arena and seeing all the people they’ve watched on telly for years, was just magical.”

Molly Ollys was set up following the experiences of Molly over the five years she received treatment for kidney cancer at Birmingham Children’s Hospital.

Molly Ollys, Jamie Gittins, Freddie Gittins, leukaemia, breast cancer

Between 2017 and 2020, the Charity funded Birmingham’s first paediatric palliative consultant as there was no such consultant for the region. That position has now become permanent and is currently funded through the NHS.

The Charity works alongside the NHS to support projects within the hospitals and the community. One key project was the creation and refurbishment of Magnolia House at Birmingham Children’s Hospital. This is a safe and non-clinical space where medical teams and families can have important discussions.

Rachel Ollerenshaw said: “We can often think that the lot we have been given in life is hard, but you only need to hear stories such as that of Jamie and his family. They have faced the unimaginable and yet still find time to give back. Jamie is truly inspirational and all the team at Molly Ollys are in awe and very grateful. They understand that it doesn’t always have to be grand gestures, something small can make a big difference to a family’s emotional wellbeing.”

Molly Ollys, Jamie Gittins, Freddie Gittins, leukaemia, breast cancer
Freddie and Noah Gittins

With a final round of treatment starting next week (Feb 21st), sights are now set on brighter days ahead.

Jamie said: “Fred being leukaemia-free is amazing and once we get through this next treatment block, I will be able to relax a little bit. It’s been a horrible year, but the Easter holidays is when he gets his lines taken out and gets a little bit of independence and normality back. He’ll be able to shower himself again or go swimming, which he loves.

“Life is never going to be the same for us with everything we’ve gone through, but I’m looking forward to getting back to normality without all the stresses and worries we’ve had throughout the last year.”

To donate, visit here

You can keep up to date with Freddie’s progress via here

Visit Molly Ollys here