ALICE’S ESCAPES–AND ALICE’S BIRTHDAY!
Today is a very special day. Well, tonight at midnight it starts, but due to the time difference I wanted to get this up before the actual event. Tonight at midnight in the UK, six pm here, Alice Pyne turns sixteen years old. Now, sixteen is a milestone birthday no matter how you look at it. But for Alice Pyne it is especially important. Alice, some of you might remember (how could you forget her), is the young lady in England I met through my online friend MrsD who posted her bucket list on an ongoing blog that has gone viral. You see Alice, who is terminally ill with cancer, never expected to make sixteen. That is what makes today so much more special. And Alice who could have been sitting around self indulgent and mopey has taken the time given to her and done amazing things. She went and met Prime Minister David Cameron, she has been raising money for bone marrow donation awareness, she has raised funds for THHN–Luke Tillin’s group I wrote about last week. She has met her favorite band, and made her Emma Bridgewater mug and all sorts of other things–If you haven’t you must take a look at her list–but during all this time, while she has been undergoing treatment and dealing with all sorts of things no one her age should ever have to deal with, Alice Pyne has been making the world a better place. So much so she won The Inspirational Woman of the Year Award in England. And she was up against Lady GaGa, Emma Watson and Victoria Beckham.
Since the first moment I became aware of Alice I have been blown away by her. So, today, tonight and all day tomorrow not only do I wish Alice a Happy Sixteenth Birthday. I would like all of you who read this to comment in and wish her a Happy Birthday as well. Let’s see how many birthday wishes we can collect for her. If anyone deserves it it’s Alice. If the world were made up of Alice Pynes it would be a perfect place.
ALICE, ON YOUR 16th BIRTHDAY, YET AGAIN DEFYING ALL ODDS, I WISH A GORGEOUS DAY WITH YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS, AND THANK YOU FOR BEING SUCH A GREAT INSPIRATION TO SO MANY!
Below you can find my interview with Alice and her mom Vicky about how they started their charity, Alice’s Escapes.
Thanks to Catrin Lloyd-Bollard for compiling the interview.
1) Tell us about the charity you are starting?
VICKY: We’re starting a charity called “Alice’s Escapes” – essentially a network of local businesses in Cumbria (the north of England) offering their services (anything from accommodation, a meal out, a boat trip, family portrait, etc.) to a family that has a child with a serious illness. We act as network facilitators and coordinate any offers to offer a special break to a special family.
2) What was the inspiration for this?
VICKY: The inspiration for this came after we ourselves took a holiday with the Torbay Holiday Helpers Network (Luke’s charity). Money becomes tight when you’re covering costs associated with having a sick child, and holidays are often nothing more than a dream. We thought it was such a long way to go, so wouldn’t it be good to start a similar charity in the north of England?
3) What do you find the most challenging aspect of starting a charity from scratch?
VICKY: The most challenging part for us has been moving things forward while having to continue with our own personal journey. I sometimes speak with a business in the morning, and it’s obvious they’re just not interested, and then I turn back to Alice and just wish that they could see what her and kids like her go through. In general, unless you’re in our situation, you don’t realize how a simple act can literally make the world of difference to a family.
4) Alice, you have gotten a lot of global attention – you have put yourself out there and people have responded. Do you think your illness has made it easier for you to reach people? If so, how does someone, let’s say, with just the dream of helping others go about it?
ALICE: I didn’t mean to be ‘out there’ in the beginning. It really was just for my friends because I didn’t like talking about it all the time. I still don’t, but writing it down is easier, really. I realized that I could use my life to make people think about things, and it got me thinking. Then I started getting emails from people who had joined, and people who had been saved, and even people who had lost someone, and they all kind of connected with me. I didn’t think about how I would reach out to people, I think it just happened. And if just one person has donated bone marrow somewhere, there’s another Alice who has been given her life. It’s just amazing, isn’t it? I don’t want to go, but it’s better to go having done something for others, isn’t it?
5) What is your dream for your charity?
I hope that there will come the day when businesses come to us to ask to be a part of our network. I hope that we never have to turn a family away. So our vision is to run a charity that has a healthy balance of supporters and supported. Alice’s time with us has shown us that you really have to cherish every day and we want to provide an escape where families can just enjoy being together.
6) Tell us about the mugs.
When Alice published her bucket list, she put the Emma Bridgewater mug down. It was just a personal thing she wanted to do – she never, ever expected it to happen. She chose the THHN to benefit because the smaller charities are the ones who have supported us. Literally, in this last week, we’ve heard the exciting news that Emma Bridgewater is inviting Alice to design a second mug, this time to support “Alice’s Escapes”. She’s already drawn her design and so within a few weeks we should have another Alice mug. That will help us immensely.
7) Alice, what have the last four years taught you about mankind?
ALICE: Well (laughing) that all the people you think are your friends aren’t really your friends. I got loads of cards from people but hardly any of them bothered to call around. I think that they just wanted to make themselves feel better and weren’t really interested. I can remember watching teachers from other schools bringing a little group of classmates to hospital but mine never bothered. But I’m glad I knew because I didn’t go and waste my energy on them. My three BFFs are still the same people and that’s what matters to me.
8) If you could ask for one thing from every person in the world what would it be?
VICKY: I’d ask that everyone would step off the treadmill and really think about their life. We’re all too material and parents spend cash rather than time with their kids.
ALICE: I still want everyone to join the bone marrow register because everyday someone new gets old enough to join.
9) Why do you think it takes a trauma often times for people to become aware?
VICKY: I think that unless something is close to home, it’s easier to ignore and pretend that it just won’t happen to you.
But it can and does happen – one day your life is normal and your biggest worry is fitting in a hair appointment before Christmas. The next your child has started what for us has turned into a four-year battle for her life. Suddenly, that hair appointment doesn’t seem so important.
10) You are two of the strongest, most extraordinary women I know of. What do you attribute this to?
VICKY: I don’t tend to think of myself as particularly strong, I just don’t like to waste my life thinking negative thoughts. If I had to attribute my ‘strength’ to anyone, it would be Alice, as it would be impossible for anyone to live with her and be negative.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen mental strength at the level Alice displays. She’s truly inspirational, and what’s so lovely is that she genuinely gains so much from helping others. We keep a little book where each morning we decide on our reason to smile that day (sounds daft but we do)! It doesn’t really matter what it is, but just thinking up something gets us chatting, and that in itself puts us in a better mood. We’ve come up with all kinds of reasons, such as: being glad we have each other; being glad it’s a sunny day; being glad she helped to find someone a donor; even being glad there’s only so many more infusions of a nasty chemo left (as opposed to dwelling on how many there still are to go). So I guess that being positive makes us even more positive…most of the time!
Here is a picture of the Emma Bridgewater mug that Alice designed. All profits from the mug go to the Torbay Holiday Helpers Network. You can purchase your own here!