Smile…it’s show time!
ALEC’S ANGELS – It’s A Knockout
The first people who greeted me when I arrived in Winslow that Sunday morning were Kimberly and her mum, Julie Chapman. Julie is Alec’s aunt and Kim, as she likes to be known, is Alec’s cousin. That set the scene for the day. Not just the smiles and warmth that came from this lovely lady and her teenage daughter, but the fact that nearly every helper I met on that wonderful day was either related to little Alec, a friend of the family, a neighbour, a workmate of Alec’s parents, a friend of a friend, a health professional who cared for him when he became poorly, or just someone who had heard this young boy’s story and wanted to do something positive in his memory…and so it went on.
Alec Jarvis died aged 9, in March 2011. He had been diagnosed in February 2010 with an astrocytoma, a tumour in the brain stem. Despite having every treatment available, he sadly passed away the following year. Alec’s parents, Brian and Sara, took this personal tragedy and formed the charity known as Alec’s Angels. They did this in honour of their son because of the love and care that he had shown to other children suffering like him, even throughout the gruelling tests, radiotherapy and chemotherapy he was undergoing. Alec’s Angels has two main aims. The first is to make children suffering with cancer SMILE, as requested by Alec himself. The second is to support the families who, as Brian and Sara know, find some of the smaller things in life impossible to manage when dealing with childhood cancer. Alec’s Angels supports two other charities who gave them support during their son’s illness and beyond. They are Helen and Douglas House Children’s Hospice, and Clic Sargent. Details of these charities can be found on Alec’s Angels website: www.alecsangels.co.uk. In addition to its support of these charities, Alec’s Angels has also created THE SMILE FUND, which is based at the Children’s Hospital Oxford, on Kamran Ward, where Alec was treated. Its purpose is to give direct support to the medical team and their work there.
This is the second year that the charity has used Graham Fisher’s International ‘It’s a Knockout’ as the main event for its fun day in Winslow. Last year it raised over £7,000. It is hoped that this year’s event will see Alec’s Angels do equally well, if not better, despite the clouds and drizzle that threatened it all day. Helping to do this was an army of volunteers, such as Duke, a family friend and charity trustee, who set up stalls and organised the day, Mad Mel, who dyed her hair orange for the event, and Mayzee the dog, who sported an orange doggie jacket for the occasion, plus a host of relatives, like Wendy, another of Alec’s aunts. There was the information stall manned by Lena and Dick, the tombola and cake stall run by a group of lovely ladies, all volunteers like Denise, Candy, Jill, and David, plus many more, too numerous to name, some of those also being trustees to the charity. All of these good folk regularly and readily give their time and energy to raise funds to support this charity, which has grown from a tiny seed to a well-run aid organisation.
There were lots of stalls there selling goods such as the incredible sweets from Sweets Adventure (the Maltesa mountain was fantastic), beautiful plants from Laker’s Nursery, delicious doughnuts from Nan’s Doughnuts, where a cute young lad called Brandon got stuck to his mum’s fridge, rescued by his big sister Abbie. Mum Ann told of how, having lost Dominique, her own child, she wanted to be involved with Alec’s Angels. There were wonderful cakes (believe me) from Coolberry café, natural beauty products from Judy’s stall, Forever Living Products, goodies from Sue’s Cakes and Preserves, whose products looked magnificent, and Samantha and Stuart’s, Crackling Fare, a pig roast stall. The cooking smell coming from their rotisserie was hard to resist. Pegasus, the mobile bar opposite, provided the more adult refreshments, owned by a larger than life, fun character called Steve. There were giant burgers, bacon butties and chips, plus much more from Caz Bar. Caz and his cousin Mario, kindly supplied the charity workers all day with free food and refreshments to keep them going. Coffee Stop, next door, sold the most delicious coffees, teas and cakes from this family run, great little mobile café. There was Hamzah, selling jewellery and other pretty trinkets, loads of great books on the Usbourne Books stall, and Xanthe Crafts, who displayed the most amazing homemade items. As well as these, the event had some unusual kinds of stalls, such as the Move Better Fitness Academy, who presented their sport’s mats, designed to improve the fitness of adults and kiddies. Then there was a stall that worked with coloured sand, making key rings and other items, which was fascinating to watch, and of course, a lady face painter called Nicki from Giggle Pots, whose designs were just incredible.
There was ice cream from Astore and Sons and a children’s big wheel ride, plus a massive bouncy castle and bouncy slides from CSB Roadshow. Mini Racing 8 Lane Scalextric provided folks with the excitement of racing cars around a giant track…great fun! All stall holders gave a percentage of their takings on the day to the charity.
Supporting the event was the services from Critical Care, whose boss, Tony, provided free for the event. Debbie and Rachel from this organisation were there to give medical assistance and health and safety cover. The police and the Winslow fire brigade turned out to support the charity day, and Winslow Scouts did a magnificent job with their clay pigeon shooting ‘experience’. Heart Fm Radio also sent two lovely ladies to take some photographs and promote the charity on their website.
I met some great youngsters at the event as well. There was 15 year old Amy and Scarlet, who came to help out for the day and Seb and his friends, who entered (and won) the kid’s ‘It’s a Knockout’ challenge. There was also a £58 donation given to Sara raised by footballers in Year 10, Buckingham School.
Then of course there were the adult contestants who lined up to compete in the ‘It’s a Knockout’ arena. These wonderful (and I have to say) virile and very handsome men, and beautiful, athletic women gave up their Sunday to jump over hurdles, climb giant obstacles and fall off of them, get soaked with water and soapsuds and generally make complete fools of themselves for our entertainment. There were eight teams altogether. Snow White turned up with her seven dwarfs, all sporting green beards and hats (not Snow White of course – she wore a tiger jumpsuit; naturally), and their mascots, Annabel, Danielle and Ele. The Plumbers were a great bunch of lads, although under pressure they admitted they were not all plumbers. Team Envirocab, who were supported by Ethical cabs and Your IT Works were confident of winning as they had trained very hard, and the Churchill Champions, staff from the Oxford hospital who treated Alec, described themselves as fit, fantastic, ridiculously good looking and raring to go. There was the Green Machine (or Green Light Autos; they could not make up their minds), who were fine specimens of men and a bevy of beautiful ladies. Their technical training regime was sleeping, eating and drinking, and bouncy castle experiences, according to Craig, their fitness instructor. He must have known what he was doing, as this team won. There was the gorgeous, all in pink, Boot’s Belles (even though one was a lad) from Boot’s pharmacy, and the home grown Alec’s Angels team, Alec’s Misfits, their motivational speaker, Duke (who unfortunately had suffered an injury and could not compete) said all knew Alec and had been formed at the last minute to contribute to the event. He described his team as amazing, fresh, zesty, light on their feet and a little crazy. Last but not least were the Ninja Turtles, all from local businesses in Buckingham. They described themselves as mature but athletic, winners and dynamic and said they liked curry quite a lot. Their training for the challenge consisted of eating arctic roll and jelly tots.
All competing teams comprised of friends, neighbours, relations, workmates, hospital staff, and just people from far and wide who wanted to do something for a great cause. They came together on a grey, cool June day and gave it their all.
Before the heavens opened up, the children’s teams lined up for ‘It’s a Knockout’ and like the adults, they too gave it their best shot. They were brilliant!
As I stood sheltering from the rain under my umbrella and watching the exhausted, wet and shivering teams collect their trophies, I felt an incredible pride. Standing in a field in a small market town in England at this event, I was proud to be a member of this community on this day, and proud to be wearing the orange shirt of Alec’s Angels. What a day, what a show!
The photography on the day was undertaken by Jane Kelly and Steve Robinson from Photoshoot Magazine. Alec’s Angel charity is one of PM’s chosen organisations.