In 2010 Jessica Robson, from Cramlington in Northumberland, was diagnosed with Alveolar Sarcoma Cancer – which affects only one in ten million people – and spent long periods of time receiving treatment and care at the Great North Children’s Hospital in Newcastle.
She started her own charity – Jessica’s Sarcoma Awareness – and used social media to raise money and help other young people suffering from cancer.
After Jessica died, aged 18 in May 2014, her older sister Nicole registered the charity and – with her parents Trevor and Julie – have continued the work she began.
The charity has now raised £100,000 and, for a second Christmas, used some of the money to buy 100 presents for the patients – and their brothers and sisters – being treated at the paediatric oncology inpatient ward, day unit and Teenage Cancer Trust unit at the hospital.
Lynn Dutton, the hospital play specialist, looked after Jessica during her treatment. “She was a very brave girl. It’s absolutely fantastic what her family are doing. It really does make a difference to all the teenagers and children. It puts smiles on lots of faces,” she said.
Cara Mattok, the youth support co-ordinator with the Teenage Cancer Trust at the Great North Children’s Hospital, knew Jess well. “It all happened here and all the memories are here of what Jess went through for so long,” she said.
“She had a really tough time. She was a sweet, loving, kind, gracious girl and she was very beautiful and brave.”
“People hear about Jess through the charity, her fight and her story, and it’s really important for her family and everybody else to remember her – which we obviously will because she was a special, special girl.”
She said Jess’ family put in an incredible amount of work into fund-raising: “They know exactly what people are going through and to work tirelessly like this is incredibly brave of them.”
Nicole Robson: “It’s tough coming back but it’s nice to see all the smiling faces when we give the presents. It’s something for Jess – that’s what gives you the drive.”
Her mum Julie said: “Jess was quite shy and preferred to be in the background, but she’d be absolutely thrilled about the charity and so proud of her sister who’s the real driving force behind it.” This time of year was especially difficult: “It’s tough all the time but Christmas is particularly hard because she loved it so much.”
She said the charity work helps as well as the “incredible support” from the local community and businesses as well as Jess’ old school, Cramlington Learning Village.
Among the patients receiving presents were five-year-old Isaac Dawson from Burnopfield, who’s been receiving treatment since the summer, and 10-month-old Chloe Guy from Chester-le-Street who has needed treatment for the past six months.