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Climb every mountain…

One mum’s fundraising appeal for her child took her and her friends to the top of the world. School Notices speaks to Tanya Ritchie about her incredible charity work for her son, Toby

Seven Hampshire women are preparing for the challenge of a lifetime to raise funds for research into childhood brain tumours. The friends will spend four days in the Swiss Alps at the end of February, climbing to a height equivalent to that of Mount Everest – on skis. Monies raised from the challenge will go towards The Brain Tumour Charity’s “Everest Centre”, which was launched last year and will carry out much-needed research into childhood low grade brain tumours.

The mums’ extraordinary fundraising effort is inspired by ten-year-old Twyford School pupil Toby Ritchie, who was diagnosed with an incurable brain tumour at the age of five and continues to battle the effects of the disease.

There are six teams taking part in the Everest challenge in 2018 and “Toby’s Team” is being led by Toby’s mum Tanya, together with six close friends and fellow Twyford mums – Lucy de Laszlo, Bebe Corbett, Tiggy Corben, Emily Bray, Sarah O’Gorman and Philippa McNeil.

They are driven by Toby’s courage in the face of his diagnosis and gruelling treatment. This has included 18 months of chemotherapy at Southampton General Hospital and two major brain surgeries, most recently in 2016 at King’s College Hospital, London. Surgeons successfully removed over 50 per cent of Toby’s growing tumour. However post-op, Toby had to learn to walk and function again. He is now back at school and as Tanya says: “He achieves so much – he is inspirational, determined and very gutsy. I hope we can all show the same resolve during Everest in the Alps.”

Tanya says that staff at Twyford school have ensured that Toby can take part in normal, everyday school life: “They do their utmost to make sure he fits in and they adapt things to make sure he doesn’t get too tired. When Toby is at school, he can be like any other child and he loves that.”

Over 26,800 children and young adults are diagnosed with a paediatric low-grade brain tumour every year. For many, this means years of gruelling chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery. For those that survive, 62 per cent are left with life-altering disabilities. Despite this, treatments have advanced little and only 1.99 per cent of national cancer research is allocated to brain tumours.

This is the second Everest in the Alps expedition; the first, with a 14-strong team, took place in 2015 and was led by Tanya’s husband Rob. They raised a staggering £3 million, allowing The Brain Tumour Charity to launch the ground-breaking Everest Centre for Research into Paediatric Low Grade Tumours.

All the money raised will help fund the Centre’s innovative research, led by Dr David Jones, expert in molecular biology. The Centre, housed at the German Cancer Centre in Heidelberg, is a collaboration between researchers at Great Ormond Street Hospital and the Blizard Institute at Queen Mary’s University, London.

Geraldine Pipping, director of fundraising for The Brain Tumour Charity said: “Everest in the Alps is a unique, phenomenally tough challenge and we are immensely grateful to Toby’s Team for taking it on in support of our work. They know only too well how vital is it that we continue to fund research into childhood brain tumours, so that one day every child diagnosed with the disease has access to safe and effective treatment. Their determination o create some good out of Toby’s diagnosis and to change things for others in the future, is truly inspirational.”

The Brain Tumour Charity is at the forefront of the fight to defeat brain tumours and aims to make a difference to the lives of children who suffer from the condition and also their families. Its pioneering research increases survival rates, raises awareness of the symptoms and effects of brain tumours and provides support for everyone affected. The charity’s goals are to double survival rates from brain tumours within 10 years in the UK and to reduce by half the negative impact that brain tumours have on quality of life.

For more information visit The Brain Tumour Charity website here 


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