ON THE GROUND: Willow Foundation

Scheme: Provides special days out for seriously ill 16-40 year olds

Funding: A total of £134,199 over three years from the Community Fund. Other funding comes from private donors and companies

Objectives: To help people with serious illnesses to spend quality time with friends or family doing an activity they can enjoy

"An illness should never just be about the medical battle, even more important is the emotional battle," says a quote in the Willow Foundation's annual report. This statement was made by the husband of an ill woman who had received a special day out to raise her spirits and encapsulates the charity's raison d'etre.

The foundation was launched in August 1999 by football presenter Bob Wilson and his wife Megs as a lasting memorial to their daughter Anna, who was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 26. She died five years later in 1998.

The charity provides special days out to seriously ill young adults aged between 16 and 40 who have life-limiting or life-threatening conditions.

"Seriously ill people can't do many of the things they want to and our special days are about bringing back some normality into their lives," says Suzanne Brennan, director of operations at the foundation.

The Hertfordshire-based charity organises and pays for the entire day since most of the families it assists have limited funds after caring for their loved one. The special events it offers include organising extreme sports, such as skydives, and paying for treats such as family visits to the theatre. "Not everyone wants to jump out of an aeroplane," says Brennan.

One who did just that is adrenaline junkie Sarah Marchant. She was granted her life-long wish to jump from a plane after she was treated for the cancer Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

"It seemed a perfect way to claim back my life after my treatment," says Marchant.

"The chemotherapy was so debilitating that it was like being paralysed on the couch with nausea. The skydive was part of a completely crazy week for me and now I am feeling really re-established."

Willow Foundation, which employs one full-time and six part-time members of staff, runs up to 150 such days every year. Brennan says the events make a huge difference to people's lives. "They write saying how the day has empowered them," she says. "It's all about the anticipation and reflection of the day and taking these people out of their routines."

She adds that the events offer people comfort when they need it most.

"For some," says Brennan, "a special day is the last chance to fulfil a dream."

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