Why did we create a charity?
Fletcher was a much loved and wanted first child. For a short nine months, we had a wonderfully normal family life, a life of sleepless nights, celebrating the milestones and learning to be parents.
Then he got sick.
Our life changed again from learning to be parents to learning to be parents of a seriously poorly child. We became cancer parents and were thrust from the usual, expected tangent onto a complete rollercoaster. We had to learn medical terminology, procedures and care whilst our hearts were breaking and we were having to live 120 miles from home.
Any support was so valuable
During that uncertain time, we were glad to discover that we were not alone and that support was available from some truly wonderful charities. One provided us with a home from home throughout Fletcher's treatment, allowing Lee to stay in Leeds, 5 minutes from the ward, whilst I stayed with Fletcher overnight. Another provided a wide range of support from emotional, financial and respite in the form of massages, talking therapy, hairdressing facility and they also funded a whole range of support on the ward itself.
The support from these charities was vital to us. We knew Fletcher's every need – medical and otherwise – was catered for, and we were able to breathe a little easier knowing that support was available for us.
But as time went on, and we spent more time on the ward – 4 ½ in-patient stints at one point - we realised that, as with everything, budgetary restraints and staffing meant that the support, whilst wonderful, was difficult to maintain and the staff were stretched. We did what we could to help, organising fundraisers and donations and putting out appeals as much as we could.
When it became apparent that Fletcher would not survive, we took him to our local hospice, Jigsaw Children's Hospice in Carlisle, to receive end of life care and to give family and friends a chance to say goodbye to him. Jigsaw is another fantastic charity, one with which we are delighted to have a superb working relationship.
Whilst in Jigsaw, I had an idea that I wanted to give something back to those that had helped us, and the idea of a charity began to take shape.
Fletcher passed on 15th March 2017, and our lives became unrecognisable once more. In 14 months, we had moved from ordinary first-time parents, to cancer parents, to bereaved parents. Our baby boy was forever 22 months and 27 days old. He died just a month and one day before his second birthday.
We were bereft. But, having known terrible losses before, I knew that this would be ok in time. I knew that we could turn the biggest tragedy into something overwhelmingly positive and good. I knew we could succeed.
First came the name
That idea I had in Jigsaw slowly started to develop. The name came first – originally Fletcher's Fun Fund, which quickly morphed into Fletcher's Fund, but look at our logo. Notice the fun? It's there, and has been since the very beginning.
So that's what we did. Fletcher's Fund was born. We were incredibly fortunate to have a whole host of incredible friends and family around us, that had supported us every step of the way from Fletcher's diagnosis – Team Fletcher.
We called upon two of those incredible people, who had taken it upon themselves to organise a Family Fun Day to raise money for us during Fletcher's treatment. They became our founding trustees, along with Lee and me (Leanne). We quickly got to work, and we received charitable status from the Charity Commission on 11th May 2017.
Life became a frenzy of fundraising, developing projects, learning to run a charity and bringing up our baby, who was just 10 weeks old when Fletch died. We are almost two years on now, a lot has changed – those founding trustees stepped down after a year, and we now have a fabulous team of five trustees who are dedicated, passionate and committed to driving forward.
It has been a rocky ride, with lots of successes but also mistakes made. We are still learning, and I doubt we will ever stop. We are busier than ever, the charity is thriving, that 10 week old is now a beautiful, healthy 2 year old (the first 2 year old we've had) and life is good.
Running a charity isn't easy. Much like running your own business, you become absolutely invested in it, and it can very easily take over your whole life. It is my baby, my passion and for the first time in a long time, I can truly say that I love what I do.
Would I recommend running a charity to others? It entirely depends on whether you have the drive, determination and passion to make it work, but more than anything if you have the time and patience to put into it. It is a massive amount of work, with lots of legalities to comply with, and lots of paperwork to document everything we do.
It is amazing, but running a charity isn't for everyone, but that's OK. It is hard work, I have never been busier, or worked harder. It can be stressful, and frustrating, but those times are mostly outweighed by the feedback we receive and the wins we make.
A legacy that makes a difference
We make a difference. There is no doubt about that. Through our various projects, we support families with children with cancer to enable them to have fun together and to make precious memories. We support the play teams in hospitals who were an invaluable source of help to us with Fletcher.
I have never been prouder about anything other than my children. We have built this from nothing, off the back of the biggest loss of our lives.And those hopes that life would one day be good, that we could do this and succeed are true.
The idea for Fletcher's Fund was borne from the desire to give him a legacy. To ensure that his life wasn't in vain, and that he would be remembered. So he would continue to be loved, and to live through the charity that bears his name. It was borne from grief.
It grew into wanting to teach Fletcher's little brother about him and also to teach Cooper, and our friend's and family's children, about charitable work and about working hard to achieve a dream. It became a teaching tool.
We want to give back to the world we were so suddenly thrust into, that became our life. We want to reach as many families with children with cancer as possible, to provide relief of the financial burden on them, to enable them to make precious memories together. We want to provide joy, laughter, love and memories.
It is about hope. It is about ambition, positivity, passion and dedication. We are on a journey to share our story and work to achieve our aims.
We are more ambitious than ever, with some huge plans for further projects, fundraising events and changes to grow the charity and take it to the next level. One of those plans include me stepping down as a trustee and entering an employed role within the charity, taking a small, modest wage. This is something that we have thought hard about, and ultimately it will give us the opportunity to dedicate even more time to ensuring Fletcher's Fund grows, becomes even more successful and is viable as a long-term, sustainable entity.
We have no plans to go anywhere whilst there is a need for us and what we do. It has been an incredible period of time, and the future is looking even brighter.
What a legacy we have given our beautiful boy.