The family of a caring and considerate teenage boy is thanking people from the “bottom of their hearts” after a major £100,000 appeal fund in his memory was smashed in less than a year. The Walker family, estimate that “thousands” of people have worked towards raising funds for the Cancer Research Wales project in the name of 13-year-old Tom. It has been a remarkable 11 months with community and individual events contributing towards the total, which will fund a three-year post carrying out research into acute myeloid leukaemia.
“The Walker family is hugely proud to announce that just 11 months after the death of Tom, the £100,000 target has been reached” said Tom’s parents, Debbie and Tim, and sisters. “It is hard to know exactly how many people have worked towards reaching the £100,000 goal, but it is estimated to be in the thousands. We would like to say thank you to every single person that has helped us achieved this incredible target. Every time someone does any fundraising, it shows us, as a family, that people are thinking of and remembering Tom. And we thank you all from the bottom of our hearts.”
Tom, a pupil at Monmouth School for Boys, was the youngest of 90 people who defied cold and wet conditions in March 2018 to tackle the Brecon Beacons Night Hike to raise vital funds for Cancer Research Wales. Less than three months later Tom was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia. Tragically, Tom failed to recover from an operation required to start treatment into the condition and he died the day after his diagnosis. Since Tom’s sudden death his family, friends and the Haberdashers’ Monmouth Schools’ community have been working to raise money for Cancer Research Wales. In October 2018, Cancer Research Wales announced it would set up a fund in Tom’s memory with the target of raising £100,000 to fund a three-year research post.
The Walker family said: “There have been many community and individual events including lemonade sales, sweet sales, cake sales, sponsored rows both on water and on land, hat parades, merchandise sales, a Christmas car park on the Monmouth School for Boys’ grounds, the incredible Swim for Tom, participation in Monmouth’s Santa fun runs and sponsored runners in the Eden Project, London and Newport marathons. There has been a spectacular raffle run by Year 5 boys, the 2019 Brecon Beacons Night Hike, Monmouth’s Got Talent, busking in Monmouth and Cwmbran, donations at a music festival in Pontypool, car washes and birthday and anniversary donations. The support has been incredible.”
Cancer Research Wales will now put out a grant call for an acute myeloid leukaemia research scholarship this summer, named in memory of Tom, with the appointed scientist to start working on the project in September 2020. It is anticipated that the scientist will make regular visits to the Monmouth Schools’ community, keeping it up to date with the work they are doing and holding interactive workshops for those interested in careers associated with health, science and medicine. Fundraising Manager at Cancer Research Wales, Katie Killoran, said: “The support that Tim and Debbie Walker have had since Tom’s death has been incredible. The Remembering Tom campaign has touched so many hearts and we are delighted to be able to fund research into acute myeloid leukaemia to help save lives in the future. I want to thank Tim and Debbie for their outstanding support to the charity and the community of Monmouth who have supported them along the way.”
Reflecting on Tom’s sudden illness, his mum, Debbie, said: “As a friend recently said to me, it was never a fair fight. And that is what would have annoyed Tom the most. He was always fair. He had an incredible sense of what was right and what was wrong. He would have taken anything on, but this was a very one-sided fight.”
The survival rates for acute myeloid leukaemia have remained stubbornly low and worsen with age. It is a rare but aggressive disease about which very little is known.The money raised will fund an area of work where there is a recognised gap in research or evidence, and there remains much to be done. Headmaster at Monmouth School for Boys, Dr Andrew Daniel, said: “Tom’s death came as a terrible shock for the whole Haberdashers’ Monmouth Schools’ community. The resilience of Tom’s family has been remarkable, and they are an inspiration to all of us. We are delighted to have supported, hosted and been involved in fund-raising activities for this tremendous Cancer Research Wales project. And we will continue to do so. Over the last 11 months, we have witnessed a community united in grief pulling together in support of the wonderful Walker family. Tom was a very popular and caring boy, who had a fondness for rowing, was a very talented drummer and sang in the magical performance by the schools’ musicians at St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. His loss is still felt immeasurably by us all.”
Fundraising for Tom’s fund will continue with both individual and school-led events including the second Swim for Tom planned for 12th January 2020. The Walker family added: “We hope that by funding this research, we can change the odds so that people affected by this type of leukaemia are more likely to survive be it by earlier diagnosis or by more effective treatment.”