WoW! Presents — Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital Charity: Freya’s story
- Exhibited by
- Joe Burnett
- October 31, 2019
- Medium of Communication
- Target Audience
- Type of Charity
- Country of Origin
- Date of first appearance
This moving and powerful story shows the resilience and courage of one young fundraiser after she was caught up in a terrible, life-changing event. It’s a wonderful example of how a personal narrative, told with honesty and emotion, can capture the hearts and minds of donors. Freya Lewis’ bravery and gratitude towards the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital touched all who read about it. But there's no denying Freya should also be admired and celebrated for how she grasped an opportunity to give back to those who had cared for her — by raising a record sum for the hospital’s charity.
Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital (RMCH) opened in June 2009. Over 270,000 patients, from across the North-West and beyond, are treated here each year.
RMCH have a national reputation for providing the best care in a variety of specialised treatments including bone marrow transplantation, burns treatment and critical care.
But the background to this story goes much deeper than that. On the 22nd of May 2017, 14-year-old Freya Lewis went with her best friend Nell Jones to the MEN Arena in Manchester to attend a concert by her beloved Ariana Grande. That night a terrible terrorist attack claimed 22 lives, including Nell's. Freya was left with horrific injuries of the sort one would normally see on a battlefield.
As Freya puts it:
‘I was admitted to Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital in the early hours of the 23 May, where I remained for over five weeks, three of which were on the Paediatric Critical Care Unit. Later in 2017, I was diagnosed as having scoliosis, which for those of you who don’t know is curvature of the spine. [...] It became progressively worse over the course of 2018 and I had no choice but to undergo major spinal surgery. Luckily, the corrective procedure, which involves attaching two titanium rods down the length of the spine, is something that they specialise in at RMCH, and I underwent the surgery, and spent another eight days in the hospital. I remain a regular visitor to RMCH as an outpatient. I have now been in surgery on a total of 15 occasions and for a total of over 80 hours.
I am only alive and here today because of the incredible care that I received at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital. They represent our wonderful National Health Service at its very very best. The care I received, and continue to receive, is quite simply world class. I don’t have words to express how grateful I am to all of the amazing staff who have cared for me and are helping me to get back as close as possible to how I used to be.’
Freya was determined to turn a tragic and awful event into something positive and honour the memory of her best friend. So, having been inspired by the amazing care she'd received, Freya joined together with her family to raise as much money as they could for the hospital.
Creator / originator
Freya and Nick Lewis.
After Freya was admitted to hospital her dad was getting overwhelmed trying to keep everyone informed as to how she was progressing. He came up with the idea of writing a blog, which was posted via a link on Freya’s school website. The blog ran until Christmas 2017 and was incredibly popular, with several thousand followers by the time it ended. It was decided at the start that it would not be possible to post comments on the blog, but there was an opportunity for people to follow a link to a JustGiving page, where they could donate money to the RMCH charity and leave a message with their donation. The response was overwhelming and they raised £24,000.
Freya’s dad Nick was contacted by the RMCH charity in early 2018 to ask if he and Freya would be interested in appearing in a video to promote their fundraising campaign for the Great Manchester Run. Before long he’d agreed to run the 10 km, with Freya signing up - despite not being able to walk at this point - to run the junior 2.5 km.
They set up a Justgiving page in February 2018 and again the response was staggering, as they eventually raised over £36,000 for their efforts — the most money anyone has ever raised for the RMCH charity on the Great Manchester Run. They decided the funds should be spent on projects in the Paediatric Critical Care Unit.
Nick Lewis’s blog initially raised £24,000. Their sponsored runs raised a combined £36,000.
Freya has since received a Fundraising Hero Award at the NHS Heroes Awards, the Amplifon Young Hero and Overall Hero Awards for Brave Britons and spoken at Westminster Abbey as part of the National Health Service’s 70th anniversary celebrations.
She was also made an ambassador for the High Sheriff of Manchester. Plus she got to meet some of her heroes, from Ariana Grande to One Direction’s Louis Tomlinson and Harry Styles, along the way!
Other relevant information
In 2019, Freya and Nick decided to do the Great Manchester Run again in support of RMCH Charity. This time however, she was too old for the 2.5 km, so had to sign up to the 10 km. It also became a full family event, with Freya’s mum, dad, sister, auntie together with a number of my friends taking part. They were also part of Team 10, celebrating RMCH’s tenth birthday. It is slightly surprising, even shocking, to learn that, even with this great effort, they only raised just over £1,000 this time around. As Freya concludes,
‘you have to grasp the opportunity to raise money while a story or event is still fresh and relevant in the minds of the public, and it really is amazing (but possibly a good thing) how quickly people forget and move on.’
There was another charity close to the Lewis' hearts for whom they raised money. Directly over the road from Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital is Ronald MacDonald House. Ronald McDonald House Charities UK provides free ‘home away from home’ accommodation and support for families with children in hospital. There are currently 15 Ronald McDonald Houses across the UK, all just moments away from their respective children’s wards. Freya’s family stayed at ‘The House’, as it’s known, for the entire period she was in hospital after the Arena Attack and more recently following her spinal surgery.
I think it’s appropriate to leave the last words to Freya herself:
‘Over two years on from the attack, I’m not afraid to say that I’m still not okay. I still haven’t completely come to terms with the way I look and I haven’t, and never will, get used to the fact that Nell isn’t with me anymore. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t miss her immensely and don’t think about how different life would be if she was still by my side supporting me. I will, however, take her ridiculous sense of humour and resilience with me everywhere I go in life, and I’ll keep continuing to learn to accept what has happened to me, and to not let it define me, but instead shape the way I live.’