Even when she was ill in bed, Jessica Robson from Cramlington started a 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 younger sister Nicole registered the charity and – with her parents Trevor and Julie – have continued the work Jessica began.
Through the support of local people, businesses – including Sainsbury’s – and Jessica’s school, around £100,000 has now been raised. The money is shared between Jessica’s Sarcoma Awareness, Sarcoma UK and the Teenage Cancer Trust.
It has already been used to buy mobile phones so children, too ill to go to school, can keep in touch with their friends and on Monday (21) December, the Robsons will again take Christmas presents to Newcastle’s RVI hospital for seriously ill children and their brothers and sisters.
During her treatment Jessica spent time with her family in a caravan in Cresswell. “It really helped to be together, away from the hustle and bustle but not too far from hospital,” said her dad.
The charity is now planning to buy a lodge in Northumberland to provide respite breaks for other sick children and their families and Jessica’s family are also considering putting the proceeds of the sale of their house towards the project.
Trevor said his daughter’s cancer was so rare – only affecting one in ten million – that her tumour was kept for research. “If we can save one person’s life – one child – then everything Jess stood for will have a meaning. What she started we will keep going. Every penny goes to help the kids,” he said.
At the weekend two of the charity’s biggest supporters – Sainsbury’s and Cramlington Learning Village – joined forces to raise more money with students and teachers packing shoppers’ bags, collecting £2,400.
Dave Paterson, Year 11 Learning Manager at the school, taught Jessica. “She battled through every school day with a smile on her face. She is an inspiration – not just to students who were there at the time – but even students now who didn’t know Jessica. She’s never far from your thoughts because of the type of girl she was,” he said.
In June Sainsbury’s in Cramlington choose Jessica’s Sarcoma Awareness as its charity of the year and its staff and customers have already raised £10,500.
“They’ve really taken it to their heart,” said the store’s commercial manager Sharon Richardson. “The support from within the store has been great. We thought we would raise up to £4,000 but we’ve obviously way exceeded that already.”
Julie Robson 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 Cramlington Learning Village.
The fund-raising continues there on Friday with a sponsored Christmas jumper day and plans are already being made to create a memorial garden at the school to open on Jess’ birthday next April.