The Courier - The Commons Touch
David Cameron is Member of Parliament for Witney (and now Leader of
the Conservative Party) - and our MP
I write this with aching limbs and a sore backside - before you start worrying about another politician embroiled in a scandal, I will put you out of your misery.
I have just finished a two day 116 mile bicycle ride from Putney in London, to the Tite Inn in Chadlington, the village in West Oxfordshire next door to where I live, Eighteen pub regulars completed the trip, raising some £6000 for two exceedingly worthwhile local charities: Oxfordshire Association for the Blind and SCCWID, which was set up by Sophie Watson, a young girl who sadly died of cancer. The fund, which is focused on the JR in Oxford, provides toys, games and televisions for children in hospital.
It is good for MPs to get out of their offices and take some exercise - and this article gives me the opportunity to encourage more sponsors.
But there is another reason. We travelled on the new National Cycle Network, which aims to provide a real alternative to the car by running through urban centres and reaching all parts of the UK.
More than one third is "traffic free", using by-ways, cycle pahts and tow paths. We cycled down the Thames path, through Richmond Park and Windsor Great Park. In Abingdon and Oxford much of the path follows the river and little of the trip was near a main road. I could not recommend it more.
The Network was part funded by the lottery, via the Millennium Commission. I couldn't help but contrast the wonders of the cycle route with the horrors of the Dome.
The Millennium money was meant to be about providing permanent assets for future generations to enjoy.
The Dome missed the point: the Thames Valley Cycle Route hits the spot completely.
DAVID CAMERON MP
HOUSE OF COMMONS
LONDON SW1A 0AA
Sponsored bicycle ride - Putney to Chadlington
This comes with my many thanks for your very generous support.
The team from the Tite Inn - 18 in all - completed the 116 miles trek in two days. Between us we raised some £6000 in all and your help meant that my efforts contributed over £1,500.
The two charities - Oxfordshire Association for the Blind and SCCWID were at the pub to welcome us home. They were delighted with the funds that you helped to provide.
Although I will be happy if I don't have to sit on another bicycle for quite a while (I will spare you the anatomical details) it was immensely enjoyable. The new bicycle route that follows the River Thames for much of the way and runs through Richmond Park and Windsor Great park is a great asset and keeps away from major roads for most of the time. We only got lost once, and that was while I was in the lead just outside Eton ...
Anyway, I am very grateful for your support. Many Thanks.
(ARTICLE IN THE SATURDAY TELEGRAPH)
Sophie Watson lost her fight against cancer, but her battle to bring cheer to other children suffering the disease lives on with the campaign she started and continues to inspire.
By Kinvara Balfour.
Sophie Watson died from cancer at the age of 18 on January 5, 2000. She suffered from the disease for four years and never gave up fighting. Neither did her family - her mother Selina, father Alistair, sister Alice, 17, and brother Harry, 13, who all kept Sophie going, even when she was at her lowest ebb. Today she is ever-present in their lives and they are still helping achieve the dream she left behind when she died. That dream is a charity that is helping children with cancer, and their families, to cope with the long periods they are forced to spend in hospital.
During her sickness, Sophie spent much of her time enduring horrific courses of chemotherapy in the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, a place her father describes as 'a crumbling, grey building which was very frightening for the children who were fighting for their lives inside'. As her illness progressed and her chemotherapy sessions increased, Sophie decided she had to do something to change her and her fellow patients' surroundings. And so she conceived SCCWID - 'Sophie's Campaign for the Children's Ward for Interesting Things to Do' - to jazz up the John Radcliffe children's cancer ward. The funds are raised by selling a wacky selection of clothing. These days there's hardly a friend of a friend of Sophie Watson who doesn't own an item of SCCWID clothing, proceeds of which go towards duvets, toys and games and now even a new children's hospital. Sophie ran SCCWID up until her death. Today it's an every-growing business, thanks to her family and her best friend Jill Scott. 'Sophie was so ill when she started SCCWID and yet she genuinely did it to help others. You can't just ignore that kind of selflessness. That's what SCCWID is all about - putting others before yourself,' says Jill proudly.
It all began in 1996 when, at the age of 14, Sophie complained of a sore knee. She was told by her GP that she had 'probably just pulled a muscle'. Weeks later a biopsy confirmed everyone's worst fear - Sophie had a cancerous tumor in her leg and would have to have her knee joint removed, as well as a course of chemotherapy at the John Radcliffe. 'When we walked in the whole place was grey, the children all had bald, grey heads. It was so grim that Sophie nearly bolted.' Sophie, however, had no choice but to undergo the ordeal and was given her first course of chemo. She lost her thick, blonde hair almost immediately. 'Chemo is the worst thing in the world.' says Selina gravely. 'It destroys you. All you can do is sit through it, just existing.'
A year later, after endless hospital admissions for further chemo, and consequent illnesses because of her low immune system, Sophie was declared in remission from the cancer. She bound back to Burford School with a full head of hair and her friends and teachers watched her settle back into a full life. She attended pony club and joined the local hunt and everything seemed to be back to normal. Or so they hoped.
A year later, just before Christmas 1998, Sophie and her sister Alice had been on their horses when they got caught in a snowstorm. By that evening Sophie had developed an alarming cough. Her GP suspected she had pneumonia and Selina rushed her to the casualty department at Cheltenham Hospital where her chest was X-rayed. Doctors discovered a huge patch on her lungs and Sophie was taken back into the John Radcliffe. The cancer had returned.
A course of strong antibiotics ensued, followed by a harrowing lung operation where Sophie's ribs were broken and a morphine drip place directly into her chest. The Watson's had to endure the grey childrens' cancer ward once again.
It was then that Sophie declared she was going to raise money to give the ward a facelift. An afternoon spent with Jill resulted in a name for her new charity. Selina recalls, 'She just called us up and said, "The Scotts and I have thought up the perfect name, it's going to called SCCWID." Immediately she and Jill started drawing little squids and designed the logo. We were all a bit scared that Sophie was going to overdo it, but she launched into the whole thing with such determination, we could only watch and pray that she could see it through.'
Sophie and Jill sent letters to hundreds of people appealing for donations. The first things they planned to buy for the ward was an ice machine. Until then the drinking water in the ward was lukewarm an offered little comfort to the hot, dry mouths of the cancer patients. Their local newspaper got wind of the story and ran an article about SCCWID. Before they knew it, Sophie and Jill were inundated with contributions made by everyone from schoolchildren to OAP's giving their entire pensions. Sophie hugely exceeded her goal, raising not £2000 but £20,000.
An ice machine was promptly bought for the cancer ward and the rest of the money was spent on SCCWID T-shirts and hoodies bearing the brightly coloured cheery 'Squillions 4 SCCWID' logo. Sophie and Jill sold them to school friends and their families and did a roaring trade - quite a feat when one considers that not only were both doing their GCSEs at the time, but Sophie was still undergoing treatment. 'Sophie always confounded us and the doctors with her energy.' says Selina. 'Sometimes overwhelmingly so.'
Having completed her GCSEs at Burford, Sophie started sixth form at Stowe school in a new blonde wig. Selina turned the children's old playroom into the SCCWID depot. A constant supply of hoodies and T-shirts was sent out to Sophie's friends who had offered to promote SCCWID a their own schools. St Mary's Calne, Ascot and Wantage, Eton, Harrow, Downe House, Tudor Hall, Heathfield, Glenalmond, Bryanstone, Charterhouse, St Paul's, St Leonards - pupils in every school ordered something. With the profits Sophie wanted to pay for more oncology nurses (those who administer cancer drugs) to be trained, but her wish was declined by the hospital who claimed that their weren't enough nurses coming forward for the job in the first place because of poor NHS funding.
A disappointed but resilient Sophie decided to spruce up the cancer ward instead. With her SCCWID profits she ordered new televisions, games, toys and duvet covers to cheer up the place and its patients. The playroom was revamped and a large television bough. In the evenings it was made 'teenagers only' zone for the older patients and their families to spend some 'normal' time together - something that Sophie felt was essential.
Throughout this time Sophie was undergoing stem cell treatment. This is a painful ordeal, where the body's stem cells are removed and frozen, the entire body blasted with chemotherapy and cells then replaced. Two more lung operations followed, but Sophie led as full a life as possible in between. 'The school was amazing. Everyone treated her like normal,' says Selina. 'That was all she wanted.' Unfortunately, the cancer beat Sophie. The chemotherapy took an immense toll on her body and her condition deteriorated dramatically. A weak but determined Sophie joined her schoolmates for the Christmas production of Grease, where the cast dedicated the final song to her. There wasn't a dry eye in the house.
Sophie died at home five days into the new millennium. Her funeral took place by candle light in the 11th century church in which her parents were married and she and her siblings were christened. It was attended by 600 of her family and friends, and the funeral sheet was printed on bright pink paper and illustrated with some of Sophie's own magical drawings of flowers and fairies. Selina sent large baskets among the congregation, brimming with packets of tissues. A collection was made for SCCWID.
After Sophie's death, the demand for SCCWID clothing escalated beyond all expectations. Selina, Jill and Alice could barely keep up with demand and agreed to keep SCCWID alive. These days there's always someone doing something for SCCWID, whether it's a party, a school concert or a jazz night, and it's always organised by the teenagers themselves. 'They're all so professional, I can't tell you!' laughs Selina. Between them Jill and the Watstons have expanded the SCCWID clothing range to bikinis, scarves, handkerchiefs, hats and even oven gloves.
The team are now frantically raising money for a new children's hospital to be built at the John Radcliffe. They have been asked to raise £25,000 over the next five years and everyone is helping them in some way. The pressure is on but they don't mind because, in Jill's words: "We'll always keep SCCWID alive. If we didn't, it would be like letting go of Sophie, and if you knew Sophie, you'd never want to let her go."
SUCCESSFUL CHARITY FASHION SHOW
Sophia Hesketh, Lucy Wright and Willow Corbett-Winder on the cat-walk at Stowe's Fashion Show, which played to a packed house on 4th November and raised over £3000 for SCCWID, The Stowe School Foundation and The Breast Cancer Campaign.