Thank you for making Florence's wish come true... | Make-A-Wish
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Thank you for making Florence's wish come true...

Florence's Wish Makers

There are lots of different people involved in making wishes come true: from our incredible fundraisers, generous corporate partners, dedicated volunteers, to our committed staff – so we're saying a massive thank you to everyone that helps bring hope and happiness to children at a time when they need it most!

Four year old Florence was diagnosed with a rare liver cancer; at one point she was given only a 5% chance of survival. Thankfully, she has now been in remission for over 12 months. Florence's wish was to be a princess. We talked to some of the people who helped make her wish a reality. Read their stories and watch the video of the wish below.

florence in a red dress in front of a carriage

Jez Allinson, fundraiser AKA The Stormtrooper

Jez helped grant Florence’s wish by running the London Marathon for us and raising nearly £5,000.

man dressed as storm trooper running the marathon

I chose to run for Make-A-Wish because I’m a parent and I can’t imagine anything more heart-wrenching than being a parent of a poorly child.

I also helped a child’s wish come true – I crew helicopters in the Royal Airforce and we took a young lad who was wheelchair-bound in a helicopter around Oxfordshire; I could see how much he loved it.

I did the London Marathon in 2015, so this year I needed to do something different to make it more difficult and give people a reason to sponsor me. So, I decided to run in a Stormtrooper costume – I’m a massive Star Wars geek and it’s always been part of my life.

A video of me training in the costume got picked up by the Lad Bible and went viral – and I had people donating from all over the world! I also collected money by standing outside the security gates at the RAF station in my costume and my wife and I did about 14 hours of baking, selling the cakes outside our house in my costume.

On the day, I must have had about 100 selfies! People were so helpful – I couldn’t dress myself in my costume so I had to ask strangers to help me! During the race, I was conscious of thanking all the supporters and giving them high fives. But all those high fives take energy out of you – my high fives became more and more pathetic – by the end just a couple of fingers!

One of the most difficult things was that I couldn’t drink whilst wearing the helmet and I didn’t want people to see me – but I also didn’t want to die of dehydration, so it was a case of finding a quiet spot and downing lots of water. I completed in 5 hours and 26 seconds.

My advice to anyone thinking of running is to train a lot and don’t just rely on a Just Giving page – if you want to generate more money, think of something new!

The best part of this experience is knowing how much I raised – everything else is superficial in comparison. I can do a long run for my own health– but raising nearly £5,000 is incredible.

Inspired by Jez? Apply to be in our London Marathon team.

Jerry Gudgeon, Wish Visitor

Jerry helped grant Florence’s wish by volunteering as a Wish Visitor and going to see the family to talk about her wish.

Jerry Gudgeon and his wife stephanie in make a wish t-shirts

I became a Wish Visitor for the same reasons as everyone else I think – it’s about making someone’s dream come true when they’re going through a nightmare.

What I thought would be really challenging would be the emotional turmoil of it, but the reality is that the children and families themselves are so inspirational – and the children are always so positive, it’s not as emotionally traumatic as you might thing.

I’ve now done over a hundred wish visits. The real highlight is when you get the feedback and see the photographs of the wish. I did Florrie’s wish visit with my wife Stephanie; it was Christmas time, so they had a festive house and I remember Florrie was full of beans and bouncing and very excited to see us! Her sister Daisy was like a second mum, she almost wanted to mother her through it.

Mum and Dad were very open – whatever Florrie wanted was good enough for them – they only had one concern that they didn’t want to be far away from the hospital. Florrie did the deciding herself and had a big imagination! Interestingly the first thing she came out with was to stay in a hotel – mum and dad were completely taken aback and didn’t know where that had come from! Being a princess for the day came out quite strong, and we explained that princesses live in castles. She also said that she wanted a chocolate fountain.

It was a warm family – very bubbly and close knit – it was magical really.

Becoming a Make-A-Wish volunteer is the best decision I’ve ever made – and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. It’s just one of those feel-good factors, making a difference to someone’s life – it costs nothing but your time.

Lucy Dowling, Wishgranter

Lucy was the Wishgranter who organised all the different elements that went into Florence’s wish.

lucy the wishgranter next to stars painted on the walls

I’ve been working at Make-A-Wish since November 2015 – the role sounded fantastic, helping put wishes together for children that really deserve them – it’s a job that I’ve wanted to do for a long time.

The most challenging part of the job is managing a high workload and wanting to do the absolute best for each wish. We’re doing 70-90 wishes at one time, so you’re juggling a lot of things at once.

We get a wish report from the volunteers and looking at that you get to know about the family and the child’s wish. With Florence’s wish I had the initial call with her mum and she confirmed that Florrie still wanted to go ahead with being a princess in a castle.

Mum also said that Florrie loved chocolate fountains and couldn’t have one for her last birthday party because the venue wouldn’t allow it. And that was something I knew I definitely had to organise for her because I knew it would make a big difference.

So she wanted a castle – so the next step was to find the venue. And I got an email back from Hever Castle who very kindly said they’d accommodate Florrie’s wish on a day that the castle was closed to the public.

I confirmed a date with the family and then I was able to put together an itinerary based on what Florence had asked for: Florence will arrive at the castle, she will have hair and makeup done, she will have games with Cinderella, princess presents, tea party, chocolate fountain - and to finish it off a ride in the horse and carriage.

I’d read on the wish report that Cinderella was her favourite story so I thought it’d be really nice to have Cinderella there. One by one I organised the other bits – Chocolate Balloons offered us a discount price on the chocolate fountain and the venue very kindly provided the afternoon tea for free.

Then it got down to the last details – to source the outfit and decorations. I sent over links to ballgown websites to Florrie’s mum – Florence specifically chose a red sequin ball gown as her favourite.

Then I had to make sure that the itinerary was all together and that all the suppliers knew exactly where they were going and what they were doing – and of course making sure the family were happy with everything!

After the wish, Florence’s mum sent me an email saying thanks we had the best time ever, with a picture of Florence outside the horse and carriage, looking absolutely adorable.  Nothing beats hearing how happy you’ve made the wish child and their family.

It has exceeded my expectations working here, it is literally the best job in the world and I absolutely love it. You go home knowing you’ve helped people and that is the best feeling.

Catherine Bailey, Head of Visitor Services, Hever Castle

Catherine helped grant Florence’s wish by providing Hever Castle as the beautiful venue.

hever castle

We originally started working with Make-A-Wish when I contacted the charity a couple of years ago. We did a wish for a little girl called Olivia back in November and then Lucy contacted me about Florence’s wish.

To make the wish special we brought the throne over and three of the staff here worked with the volunteers to help lay out the room nicely. We provided catering and we gave a free night accommodation for the family. Everyone at Hever Castle goes out their way to make it special for the family.

Val London, volunteer

Val helped grant Florence’s wish by volunteering on the day to make it a stress-free experience for the family.

val in her garden wearing a make a wish t-shirt

Going on the wishes is pretty magic. I love seeing the pleasure of the families and the wish children – and also their siblings.

I had the email through asking for a volunteer to go on a princess wish at Hever Castle and I accepted.

Then I was in contact with Wishgranter Lucy and she asked if I could get a cake and said Florence is really into chocolate and I couldn’t have got a more chocolatey cake! I bought some iced Cinderella heads as Lucy had said that was her favourite story and I put those on. 

I got to the castle and went to the room where everything was happening – head office sends us decorations which we put around. I also had some pink diamonds – which I put on the table in the castle. The first thing Florrie did when she came in the room was start playing with these gems.

This is the great thing about Make-A-Wish – they really go into the minute details, it would have been a great day without those but it was a better day with them.

It’s a moated castle with water and you get ducks floating around on it. It’s got the drawbridge and you go across the drawbridge into a stone courtyard, Lucy had sent bubbles – so they were given out – I tend to stand back because it’s not my day, and I’m there if I’m needed. People liaise with you rather than interrupt the parents – and everything flows.

The chocolate fountain was the most magical part of the day. When they walked into the room Daisy, the 8 year old sister, went ‘Ohhhh a chocolate fountain’. Florence loved everything. The horse and carriage people came to me and said they had a horse shoe that’s came off Ringo the horse – they asked if they could give it to Florence. When Florence went home she was still clutching it – the whole thing is absolutely magic.

The best part of the volunteering role is meeting the wish families, there isn’t one standout thing because almost without exception, you come out feeling on a high – the parents are on a high, the children are on a high – so why would you be sad?

See our volunteering opportunities.

All the hard work of our fundraisers, volunteers and staff creates a magical wish for a child like Florence fighting a life-threatening condition. See the magic for yourself in this video…