Sunday, 14 April 2024
Sunday, 14 April 2024

Strictly stars and Leah, 12, kick-start Christmas at Great Ormond Street Hospital

12-year-old Leah, who earlier this year was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer, has officially launched Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity’s (GOSH Charity) annual Christmas Appeal. Through the Appeal, the public can make a donation and send messages of hope and support to seriously ill children and their families at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) this Christmas.

Leah was joined by former Strictly Come Dancing professionals Janette Manrara and Aljaž Škorjanec to unveil a Christmas Appeal display at the hospital. The festive scene – which features a chimney for Father Christmas’ arrival, a Christmas tree and twinkling lights – will soon be adorned with messages on paper stockings sent to families. The first was written by the two Strictly stars, who posted them via a special postbox, where messages from staff, families and other hospital visitors will be collected over the coming weeks.

All donations to GOSH Charity’s Christmas Appeal will help give seriously ill children from across the UK the best chance of being home with their families this Christmas. It will also help make the experience of being in the hospital magical for those whose treatment will need to continue over the festive period.

Funds raised by GOSH Charity go towards supporting the hospital’s most urgent needs, including pioneering research into rare conditions, state-of-the-art medical equipment, the vital rebuilding and refurbishing of the hospital, and support services for children and their families such as parent accommodation so parents can stay close by when their children are in hospital.

Former Strictly Come Dancing professional, Janette Manrara said:

“Aljaž and I had a fantastic morning unveiling GOSH Charity’s Christmas Appeal display alongside the amazing Leah.”

Husband and fellow strictly professional Aljaž Škorjanec, added:

“We were honoured to be the first to post a Christmas stocking message through the postbox for the families and staff at GOSH. GOSH is a wonderful place which we’ve been supporting for many years.”

Liz Tait, GOSH Charity’s Director of Fundraising said:

“During the festive season, staff at GOSH work around the clock to ensure as many children as possible can be at home with their families at Christmas, and that the hospital feels like a home from home for those whose treatment needs to continue. All money raised via the Christmas Appeal will allow us at GOSH Charity to continue supporting the fantastic work of the hospital and ensure seriously ill children experience the magical Christmas they deserve. As well as donating, people can also send a message of hope and encouragement to families and staff, which will be displayed on paper stockings around the hospital.”

Leah’s story

Leah, now 12, was blue-lighted to GOSH in April 2022 following persistent lower back pain, significant weight loss caused by loss of appetite, fatigue, and lumps in various parts of her body. There, she was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer, rhabdomyosarcoma. Chemotherapy began immediately and Leah stayed at GOSH for five weeks until she was well enough to be discharged to continue treatment at home.

During their time there, Leah’s mum Sonia remembers the staff at GOSH fondly: “All the staff we met were absolutely amazing. That includes everyone from trainee nurses to senior consultants, radiographers, surgeons, physiotherapists, the Play team and so many more. They all put Leah first, talking to her, rather than about her, in her presence.”

GOSH’s dedicated Play team, funded by GOSH Charity, supported Leah beyond her medical treatment. “Every time Leah came in for treatment, she looked forward to the Play team coming around with activities. Leah loved trying out arts and crafts including tie dying, cake decorating and slime making. The Play team’s enthusiasm inspired Leah to set up her own small business – Plush Stuff – whilst getting treatment. She makes Christmas baubles, personalised gemmed bottles, and other products allowing her to show off her creative talents and to give something back to the hospital that saved her life.”

Recognising Leah’s love for ballet, the physiotherapists went the extra mile by incorporating ballet exercises into their sessions. Sonia says, “Pliés and arabesques at the bottom of the hospital bed was certainly a sight!”

After nine rounds of chemotherapy, Leah will soon begin maintenance chemotherapy at GOSH for the next one to two years.

Sonia says, “Leah was always our Princess Leah. In the last few months, she has demonstrated immense physical and mental strength. She isn’t just our Princess Leah, but also our Soldier Leah. She’s a real trooper.”

A keen dancer herself, Leah was joined by former Strictly Come Dancing professionals Janette and Aljaž to unveil GOSH Charity’s 2022 Christmas Appeal display. Leah, Janette and Aljaž all posted messages of hope and support for families at GOSH through the special Christmas Appeal postbox.

To donate to the Christmas Appeal and send your message of hope in support of children and families at GOSH, visit gosh.org/donate/Christmas.

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