Major £167k grant for cancer charity

Jane Nattrass and her son Henry.
Jane Nattrass and her son Henry.

A children’s cancer charity set up by a Morpeth mum has landed a £167,000 BBC Children in Need grant – one of the largest ever given in the north.

The funding, for Henry Dancer Days, will be used to extend its storytelling distraction therapy sessions at the Great North Children’s Hospital at Newcastle’s RVI as well as expand the service to hospitals in Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham.

Storyteller Shelley O'Brien with Isla Williams and her dad Carl.

Storyteller Shelley O'Brien with Isla Williams and her dad Carl.

The namesake charity, was set up and is run by Jane Nattrass, a former deputy head girl at King Edward VI School in Morpeth, whose son died of osteosarcoma, an aggressive form of bone cancer, at the age of 12.

Jane said that she was ‘utterly shocked and delighted’ when she was told about the grant, adding that she had been waiting since their application went in last October to hear if it had been successful.

“We call them distraction projects, which isn’t a perfect title, but it helps the children to forget about their treatments,” she said.

Among those already benefitting from the scheme is Isla Williams, who is pictured above with her dad Carl and professional storyteller Shelley O’Brien.

“Henry used to love me to read to him when he was in hospital and he liked the fact I put on funny voices,” said Jane, pictured inset with Henry.

“He did something with a film-maker and I saw how that helped, having someone come in who wasn’t going to hurt him or do tests.

“It’s for parents too, as when I trusted him with Henry, I could go away and do something else, like call family to update them or get away from it for a bit.”