Story continues for young cancer patients at hospital

A special storytelling project that helps young cancer patients during their hospital treatment is set to be extended after the charity behind it secured a four-figure grant.

Saturday, 19th November 2016, 07:50 am
Updated Monday, 21st November 2016, 12:27 pm
Shelley OBrien with two young patients in the childrens hospital.

Henry Dancer Days (HDD) established regular sessions in the paediatric oncology unit at the Great North Children’s Hospital in Newcastle last year.

It involved professional actress Shelley O’Brien working with patients on a one-to-one basis to tell and create the sorts of stories they wanted to hear.

And after being put forward for a grant by Morpeth branch customer Jane Nattrass, who set-up HDD in memory of her son, a £1,500 donation from Newcastle Building Society will allow for additional storytelling sessions to be held later this year.

The funding has come from its Community Fund, which provides an on-going source of financial support for charities and community groups that are located in or around the communities served by the building society’s 27-strong branch network.

HDD supports young sufferers of osteosarcoma, an aggressive form of bone cancer, and their families. Henry died in 2011 at the age of 12 from osteosarcoma.

Jane, a former deputy head girl at King Edward VI School in Morpeth, said: “When Henry was undergoing treatment, he would sometimes work with a young filmmaker on making cartoons and other stories and having seen how much he enjoyed these sessions, we thought doing something similar for other young cancer patients would be a good idea.

“Shelley does a wonderful job of fully involving the children in the stories she tells and she really fulfils the idea that we had of helping them be fully absorbed by the story and their imagination, rather than in their treatment.

“We’ve seen young patients who’ve been struggling to eat because of their treatment being encouraged to do so by hearing a story about food, while the value of the time that parents get to speak to relatives, get a cup of coffee or simply gather themselves out of sight of their child can’t be underestimated.

“The hospital had seen the direct benefits of the project and wanted us to put on more sessions, which this generous funding from the society will enable us to do – it’s really worth its weight in gold and allows us to give more back to young patients from across our native North East.”

For more information about the Newcastle Building Society Community Fund, pop into your local branch or visit