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Life Chez Dee Episode #29: Love, Pride and Thanks

This weekend, the first ever Ball #forEdward was in full swing.

I’ve been sitting today, recovering for a start, from lack of sleep, sore feet, late night, but also looking through so many fabulous photos of the event, and reflecting on what a huge success it was.

Many, many months ago, Gary Fox, Oliver’s drum teacher, Head of Schools Music Service in Fylde, and drummer, singer and leader of Switched on Swing, mentioned to me that the band would love to play and support at an event #forEdward. I’ve always thought about this, and wondered on many occasions how on earth I was going to find a venue locally, large enough to cope with a 20 piece swing band setting up for a start, but also how on earth I was going to organise a big event, like a charity ball, by myself.

I thought, I’ll just put it out there and see if anyone fancies helping me with this sort of an event. Immediately I was blown away by the support, and from the initial masses who offered their help, was borne some lovely ladies, who have now been conscripted by me, to be forever on TEAM #forEdward.

We’ve met up, chatted, planned, giggled and, with the support of these ladies, and my right hand man Dickon, we’ve managed to organise one amazing event. Everything flowed, the support was immense, the name was a given; the first ever Firecracker Ball #forEdward was now a reality.

Support came from everywhere; businesses and individuals donated prizes for raffle and auction; those who gave so much of their time and talent free of charge, to help and to support. The photographer, Mark Liebenberg; the balloons by Heather Clavering, Partyworx; the support of John at St Anne’s Palace; the DJ and compere and general right hand man to me, Dickon Barnaby; and the fabulous band, Switched on Swing was extra special for several reasons. Many of those in that swingband knew Edward personally. Having this band, was not only unbelievably great because they were so awesome and talented, but because most of the band knew us, whether it be myself, William, Oliver, or Edward, or all of us; and because having William play at the first Ball for his brother was incredibly special for me. And when he played a fantastic trumpet duet with James Fox I had yet another incredibly proud mum moment.

So many people chatted to me at the Ball, told me how they’d heard about the charity; how they were going to continue supporting the charity, they shared their very personal stories with me. They told me what I was doing was something really amazing. They hugged me. They supported me. They told me I was doing a fantastic job.

The evening seemed to go so fast. It was a fabulous atmosphere, you could feel the energy and positivity and support in the room. It’s hard to explain, but when you’ve been to an event #forEdward you will know exactly what I’m talking about. We played heads and tails. We bought balloons, which sold out unbelieveably fast; we had a fabulous auction with fabulous prizes, including the time offered by one of the guests at the Ball, Greg, who offered 8 hours of his time to do odd jobs. The lucky lady who won this was Katya, and I can’t wait to see all the pictures of this prize! The whole evening was incredible, the meal was superb; the room was stunning; the guests were incredibly generous. The band played until late into the evening, and music continued to be supplied by DJ and compere for the evening Mr Dickon Barnaby, with the inevitable inclusion of songs which gave a nod to Edward, including the charity single A Song for Edward. Lots of chat, lots of smiles, lots of fun, lots of dancing, lots of drinking, and lots of money made.

I decided to read my speech to the room – sorry I decided to read this folks. I know I generally ad lib, and inevitably started to ad lib again … but because I had this flippin speech I couldn’t follow my place. So in future folks you’ll be getting my waffle – be warned. Anyway, I decided this was the night to make an announcement about something rather exciting and special.

I met with Len Curtis, founder of Donna’s Dream House, and his daughter in law Gill, this week to talk through all manner of things, ideas, and future collaboration on many different projects. Donna’s Dream House was founded by Len, Donna’s dad. Donna knew that she was terminally ill, and the family spent the last years of her life making memories together. It was Donna’s wish that families with terminally ill children should have holidays together, and make memories, wishes which she wrote down, and which her Dad made a reality. Part of Donna’s Dream House is The Snowdrop Centre, which provides support to bereaved families after the death of a child.

The first project The Edward Dee Fund will support for the The Snowdrop Centre is the planting of thousands of snowdrops in Stanley Park to form part of the Snowdrop Walk, and every February, there is a service and snowdrop gathering for bereaved families. Our family has been to one of these gatherings, and so for me personally, this charity collaboration is very special. This collaboration is not only helping this other local charity, but is also reaching out to bereaved families; it is supporting the local community with this planting in the public park; it’s engaging with schools who will help us with the planting; and for the bereaved families to have two charities (both borne from a deeply personal story and child loss) supporting the Snowdrop Centre, I think is rather special. Both Len and myself have gone through the trauma and ordeal of child loss and to be able to support others whose child has died, is something we both have a drive and commitment to do. Having a complete understanding of what other families might be experiencing I think will mean a lot to those who we reach out to. Charities who have a deep understanding of others through their own personal experience is incredibly powerful, meaningful and real.

I’m thrilled to be working with this other local charity, and I think Len feels equally as delighted. I have so many ideas as to more we can collaborate on in the future and it felt wonderful to be able to share this news, with those who came to the ball being the first to hear it.

As I sit here today and reflect on the words which were said to me, not just last night, but time and again, the value that others place on the work that I do, the compliments and lovely things which are said to me, the offers of further help time and again; I know that I am doing the right thing, that I’m making a difference, inspiring others, saving lives, doing something really special and giving Edward a phenomenal legacy.

I reflect on those who help me, support me and come along on this journey with me, and I’m incredibly humbled, because it’s not those you’d expect to be at my side; it’s not my relatives, or friends I’ve known for years (albeit one or two), it’s new friends, friends I’ve met as I go along on my journey, it’s acquaintances; businesses; strangers; some local, and some from many miles away; strangers who are no longer so, who have now become very special friends. But the one thing they all have in common is that they understand what it is I’m trying to do.

Of course, my journey, my drive, my love is always for Edward, but this is so much more. This is helping people, reaching out to people, saving lives, telling a story, making a difference, bringing the community together, supporting our community, inspiring others, engaging with others, educating others but keeping Edward’s spirit right at the core of all we do; keeping Edward with us every step of the way. And those that get it, support it, and help me to grow the charity, and drive it forward.

At this point I’m going to just digress and reflect again on those I really couldn’t do without. The first is my husband, who probably works equally hard behind the scenes. He is clever, meticulous and talented, and has an endless list of jobs to do which I constantly give to him. Dickon does so much for me and the charity, with his boundless energy, commitment, drive, enthusiasm, ideas, he is always helping and supporting and I really couldn’t do all I do without him either. And I need to mention Stephen Beverley of Windmill Financial Services, and David Cox of Cox Motor Group. These two gents both understood completely all I was, and still am, trying to achieve, and have supported me wholeheartedly and financially, without question, or wanting any gain for themselves. Because of this I am able to focus all my time on pursuing all I do for the charity, without having to fit in a part time job too. Those businesses may never understand completely how much I am indebted to them, and how grateful I am for their support, no matter how much I tell them so. There are many more who could help me, and I plead to those businesses or individuals who can help, please, please talk to me. I promise I will make you proud of me.

Only last week, I was invited to The Blackpool Tower as one of the 125 local heroes to be recognised as having made a difference to the community and to others lives. I and the other “heroes” and our guests were invited along to The Blackpool Tower to receive a certificate of recognition, and whilst there were treated to afternoon tea in the Tower Ballroom.

It was a lovely occasion, with all the guests seated at individual tables around the ballroom. It was relaxed and we were able to take in the beauty and grandeur of the ballroom, listen to the Wurlitzer organ, which I always consider a special treat.

As so often on these occasions, I had some time for quiet reflection. It was an honour to be there in the presence of so many others who selflessly dedicate their time and energy to help so many other people; but at the same time heartwarming that so many had taken the time to write to The Blackpool Tower to nominate me to receive thanks and recognition for the work we do. None of us would have received either of which without people in our community taking the time to write their thoughts and feelings as to why I deserved to be there on that night. I was proud and at the same time humbled to be there, and truly choked by the love and support that is so often shown to me. So much of what I do could not be achieved without the support and generosity of so many. Of course, as I mentioned before, the other person who so deserved to be recognised too was the man who accompanied me that evening; the man who is always working in the background; and so often at my side; my husband, Justin Dee.

I was sitting near to Elaine Smith, Chair of Stanley Park. I didn’t recognise her at first, but as we were all looking up on stage to spot our names and reasons for being there, which appeared one by one on the big screen, I heard her say my name. She spotted my certificate and asked if I was Elizabeth Dee. Well of course I immediately recognised her then. I’d met her for the first time last year at the Winter Gardens Tree Festival, as The Edward Dee Fund had entered a tree into this event. I chatted at length with her about entering this again this year.

I spotted lots of other familiar faces as I glanced round the room, including that of Len Curtis, and it was at this moment, my lightbulb moment happened. I knew I needed to talk to Len, but he was so busy chatting to so many, I decided to ring him when I was home.

I’m excited about working with the Snowdrop Centre; I’m excited about a whole host of projects the charity has in the pipeline; and so the work continues. I will forever be thinking of ways to educate, engage and inspire others, raise awareness, support local community projects and related charities; fulfilling the charity’s aims; keeping Edward right at the very core of everything we do, the Spirit of Edward oozing out of every pore, right at the heart of the community, and giving Edward the most incredible legacy. Thank you to all who are a part of this charity’s journey.


Below pictures: Liz and Justin Dee; Firecracker Ball (courtesy of Mark Liebenberg); Mr William Dee and Mr James Fox (courtesy of Mark Liebenberg); Liz Dee with Len Curtis MBE and Gill Curtis - Donna's Dream House.


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