How a brave little girl lost her battle with neuroblastoma, but won hearts worldwide
- Credit: Archant
Stacey Turner, founder of mental health awareness campaign It’s OK To Say, pays tribute to St Albans four-year-old Siobhan Mather, who passed away on Saturday evening after battling neuroblastoma for nearly two years.
Siobhan was two years old when I first met her precious, big and beaming beautiful smile.
She melted my heart instantly as she was brought through the door of St Albans eatery Hatch by her parents, Anthony and Sarah Mather, for a princess-themed lunch in her honour.
I have this memory of waiting excitedly, crown and all, after setting the table all a-glitter with a basket of goodies. I waved at Siobhan and reached for her ushering the family to take a seat.
My intention was to make Siobhan happy, and chat and speak to her parents in a non-medical environment, giving them space to sit back, relax and eat while I played with Siobhan.
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Inspired by a character in my book, I decided Siobhan must become her very own princess and be treated to a sparkly lunch. With thanks to Trinder Hair, Catherine Batour Make-up Beauty Style and the team at Hatch, we were able to create a magical experience which achieved just that.
At the time, vital money was needed to progress with potentially life-saving treatment in the United States, leading to the launch of Siobhan's Fight. Following our lunch, Team Princess were active on social media, featured in the Herts Ad and I started exploring potential fund-raising opportunities.
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As well as individual donations, Oaklands College donated £1,000 and city centre fashion boutique, Chloe James Lifestyle generously chose Siobhan's fight as one of the beneficiaries from their twice-yearly charity fashion show, which raised £1,500.
One of the biggest events was a Spring Ball in Mayfair, at the Grand Sheraton Hotel on April 27 last year.
Supported by the Bradley Lowrey Foundation, a charity which helps campaigners raise funds for treatments not available on the NHS, the ball saw entertainment from celebrities including presenter Gaby Roslin and actor Johnny Partridge, ballroom dancers and musicians, and raised a staggering £110,000.
On the day it had been pouring rain, my hair was a complete mess and I was running late. I jumped into a taxi at St Pancras International and while I fixed myself, the driver and I chatted away. I told him all about Siobhan's Fight and how I had been trying to help raise awareness and funds.
Arriving at the hotel, the driver refused to take my money, gave me a big hug and said: "I know it's not much, but this is my little contribution."
He was wrong, any amount is precious, but the gesture and emotional hug was bountiful. I had had my doubts as to what I could achieve for Siobhan, yet in an unexpected moment with this stranger, I took comfort in and great appreciation for the part I had been so kindly gifted.
Siobhan touched so many in such a short time, from bringing a community together locally to reaching people on the other side of the world in Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, the Middle East and more!
Because of Siobhan, I was inspired to do as much as I could and through her fight, I met the gorgeous Mather family and connected with so many people near and far.
With her glittering eyes twinkling at us on social media, in print and on TV, she touched us all.
Siobhan, my brave little sparkly princess, you my darling are everything and so much more, I will treasure you and carry your glow forever.
The fight must go on in Siobhan's honour, and I am dedicating my upcoming Kilimanjaro climb to her memory. You can follow my journey at itsoktosay.org.uk where a page is being set up in dedication.
If you have been touched by this story, please don't hesitate to reach out: griefencounter.org.uk, counsellingfoundation.org, winstonswish.org, mind.org.uk 0300 123 3393 or text 86463