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Henry Dancer Days provides practical and mental health & wellbeing support to children and young people who are suffering from cancer. We do this by providing a range of FUN activities including one to one storytelling in 7 major UK paediatric cancer centres: Newcastle, Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham and London. We also support the families of young Primary Bone Cancer patients in 32 UK Hospitals through our Hardship Support Scheme. We help with travel, communication equipment, accommodation, physio equipment and memory-making trips for those in Palliative Care. In addition, we have commenced a Pottery Project in The Great North Children’s Hospital; distracting children by creating masterpieces they can keep.
Established in June 2012, our organisation is registered with the Charities Commission (No. 1147982) and the Fundraising Regulator with the charitable objective of providing relief to children and young people living with cancer. Henry Dancer was aged just 11 when he was first diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, a primary bone cancer, in his leg. The disease had already spread to his lungs and he never walked again. Over the following year, Henry underwent horrendous and intrusive treatment, including a titanium implant from his hip to his shin to replace the diseased bone. After just 348 days he died, breaking the hearts of many who knew him.
His Mum, Jane, set up Henry Dancer Days with an aim of helping other children and families in the same situation. In her words; “It’s my way of ensuring that Henry’s name goes on and does good for other people. It won’t bring him back but it ensures the kindness and concern he showed for others during his short life continues in his name. He was my only child and I’ll miss him every day of my life until I join him.”
Our offer to children, young people and their families is unique by providing vital services which contribute positively to their mental health and wellbeing as they go through one of the most traumatic experiences of their entire lives. Being able to leave their child (which is a rare thing) with the Storytellers to make calls to update family as to treatment, to have a shower or to cry for the first time since diagnosis without the child witnessing it. Alternatively, simply seeing their child enjoying themselves and laughing, rather than worrying about treatment and pain – our Storytellers are often the only people who come into the child’s room who do not do something clinical to them.
There is no other service in the UK which offers the types of projects and Fundamental activities we provide. We are very well recognised and trusted organisation with a vast experience of delivering individual and community-based projects.
With monies raised from fundraising events and donors our Hardship Support Scheme plays an important role to families whose children are taken to a specialist children’s cancer hospitals which in some cases can be over 130 miles from home. We are also proud to have the support of the North East communities and our patron, former Newcastle United and England player Alan Shearer, CBE DL.
Our project began in the Great North Children’s Hospital in Newcastle which is the hospital in which Henry received his treatment. Whilst undergoing treatment Henrys family noticed that there was a lack of provision in hospitals for non-treatment support. Henry’s Mum, Jane was also self-employed at the time of his diagnosis and struggled financially having to give up work to care for him combined with living over a 40-minute drive away from where Henry was receiving his treatment.
The lack of provision offered to children, young people and their families is something that Henry Dancer Days can change. After nearly a decade of delivering our Storytelling project we would like to expand and diversify our projects and activities throughout hospitals in the UK which will offer greater emphasis on the child’s mental health and wellbeing in an informal setting. We have found that hospital stays, visits and unpleasant treatment are detrimental to a child’s mental health. We want children to be positive in the run up to and during their hospital visit.
By providing our expanded services we will successfully create a desire, a degree of excitement and ignite their imagination for children and young people visiting hospital which in many cases will be another agonising trip but a one that is faced on a daily basis. Our services are vital to the families we serve and with their support we are also able to raise awareness about childhood cancer within local communities. We are proud to have supported over 7,000 families with Hardship Support and over 10,000 children and young people through our Storytelling work. The meaningful impact we have on their lives is our driving force to ensure we reach our goal of engaging with every child.
Through our own consultation we have provided a platform for children and young people’s voices to be heard which will shape the future delivery of our Henry Dancer Days projects. Through our research of collecting quantitative and qualitative data to measure our impact, we have found that since our organisation began in 2012, 99% of beneficiaries rated us excellent and 88% of beneficiaries said our FUN projects had a positive impact on their mental health and wellbeing whilst undergoing treatment. We continuously collect data which helps to demonstrate the vital need for our services and allows us to identify gaps and opportunities for us to serve childhood cancer patients.