As part of the St David’s Day celebrations, the Walker family recently had the rare honour of stepping through the doors of 10 Downing Street. The invitation came following the incredible fundraising that the family have undertaken for Cancer Research Wales.
Daughters Holly and Emily have been nominated for the ‘Young Fundraiser’ award at the upcoming National Children of Wales Awards, following their inspirational efforts for Cancer Research Wales.
It all started in February 2018 when Tom’s grandfather found a leaflet about Cancer Research Wales’s first night hike up Pen y Fan. He gave it to Tom, who convinced his dad they should both do it. Tom wanted to get fitter in order to become a rowing cox and Tim wanted to wear in a new pair of walking boots; they signed up.
At the tail end of the mini-beast from the east, Tom and Tim arrived at the Storey Arms car park. Tom, the only child participant, was apprehensive and told Tim he didn’t think he could do it. The weather conditions were terrible – rain turned to snow as they got higher up, there was snow on the ground, they were in the clouds and it was windy. Hand in hand – Tom struggled at times – they got to the top.
Sadly, only a few months later, Tom fell ill on and after just over two weeks of decline with a range of conditions, he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia. With little notice, his condition rapidly worsened and, whilst recovering from an operation to prepare him for chemotherapy, he tragically died a day later on 14 June 2018. He was aged 13.
Three months before Tom died, before he knew he had leukaemia, he raised several hundred pounds for Cancer Research Wales by taking part in the Brecon Beacons Night Hike. It is therefore fitting that the event is now held in honour of the memory of the brave and caring boy from Monmouth.
Following Tom’s sad passing, inspired by their brother’s courage and generosity and with the amazing support from their family and wider Monmouth community, Tom’s sisters, Holly and Emily have since been tirelessly raising funds for a research scholarship in his memory.
Holly and Emily’s recent fundraising efforts have been channelled into the ‘Swim for Tom’ event, a fitting tribute to their brother who was a keen swimmer at Monnow Swimming Club. The now annual event, the sponsored swimathon to date has inspired over 1000 participants to collectively swim a total of 76,000 lengths (1,100 miles), that’s the equivalent of swimming the length of Wales six and a half times! Most importantly, the event has raised a total of £35,000 in aid of Cancer Research Wales.
The incredible fundraising efforts following Tom’s sad passing now sees his fund stand at over £130,000, with the first research project due to be announced in the coming weeks. Debbie, Tom’s mother, has expressed her gratitude to all of the Monmouth community for their incredible support by saying: “today would not have happened without you.”
“Our girls are amazing and have led our fundraising efforts. However, we also have an incredible Habs’ Monmouth community behind us. And of course, we had Tom, an inspiring, beautiful young man who was taken way, way too soon.”
Head of Income Generation at Cancer Research Wales, Rhodri Davies, noted:
“We are hugely grateful to Holly and Emily, Tom’s parents, Tim and Debbie and the wider community for all their fantastic fundraising efforts in aid of Cancer Research Wales. Their kindness and commitment to the cause is testament to Tom’s character and memory.
All the money they have raised will help fund vital cancer research with aim of creating better outcomes for people of Wales.”
Inspired by the achievements of the Walker family, former International footballer and charity ambassador Daniel Gabbidon sent a special message:
“As a proud Ambassador for Cancer Research Wales I just want to say a big, big thank you to the girls and the Walker family for all your hard work raising money for the charity in remembrance of Tom. You are a true inspiration.”
Holly and Emily are already winners in our eyes, but we wish them the best of luck at the upcoming National Children of Wales Awards, which will be held on Friday 3rd April 2020 at The Celtic Manor, Newport.
Would you like to support Tom’s fund?
Up next for the Walker family and friends is the Brecon Beacons Night Hike, organised in memory of Tom by Cancer Research Wales. Guided and supported by professional mountain leaders, we will light up the night sky whilst climbing Pen Y Fan from Storey Arms. All monies raised from this epic challenge will support vital cancer research projects in memory of Tom. You can register for the event at: https://www.cancerresearchwales.co.uk/crw_events/nighthike/