Thursday, 21 October 2021

Garden party raises £2,800 for sick infant

A MAN raised £2,800 towards an infant’s cancer treatment by opening his garden to the public.

A MAN raised £2,800 towards an infant’s cancer treatment by opening his garden to the public.

More than 300 villagers visited Rob Jones’s home in Manor Road, Goring, to support his efforts to help his one-year-old great nephew Leo Burton.

Guests sat in the sun or under a marquee enjoying tea, home-made cakes and Pimm’s while a petting zoo was set up for youngsters.

The animals, loaned to Mr Jones and his wife Claire by other villagers, included donkeys, a parrot, guinea pigs and a 6ft corn snake.

There was also a produce stall selling home-grown fruit and vegetables and local honey.

Leo, whose mother Abby is Mr Jones’s niece, suffers from a rare and aggressive cancer called embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma.

The disease affects very young children as it is made up of cells that usually develop into muscle while in the womb.

Earlier this year Mrs Burton and her husband James, who live in Devon, took Leo to America for a new, less invasive type of treatment called proton beam therapy. The NHS paid for it but the family had to travel overseas as there are no proton clinics in the UK.

They had to pay for flights to Oklahoma and nine weeks of accommodation while taking time off work unpaid.

They are still saving money for Leo’s rehabilitation as the growth is in his bladder, which will need to be reconstructed when he is older. So far they have raised almost £40,000.

Mr and Mrs Burton attended the garden party with Leo and their three-year-old daughter Hattie. Mr Jones, who runs a garden design company, came up with the idea in August. He and his staff spent several weekends tidying the lawn and flower beds in readiness.

He put posters up around the village and publicised it through community groups including the Greenfingers gardening club and the village’s Women’s Institute.

“It was a great success,” said Mr Jones. “We were overwhelmed by people’s generosity.

“I loved sharing my garden with the community while raising money for a good cause. There was a wonderful cross-section of the community in attendance, from young to old.

“The family had literally just come back to England and Leo had recently celebrated his first birthday. His little smile just melted everyone’s hearts.

“Everyone in the family has done something to help him and as I am a garden designer, this seemed like a great challenge.

“It was quite nerve-wracking as I was effectively inviting people to judge my own garden — it felt like I was staking my professional reputation on it.

“Once I’d publicised it the response was phenomenal. Lots of people wanted to attend and to help in whatever way they could.”

Leo will have a follow-up scan in November but doctors believe he has responded well to his treatment, which also included surgery and chemotherapy.

Mr Jones said: “He’s a brave little boy and everyone is feeling as happy as they can be at this stage.”

He will open his garden again on September 16 next year to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support and the Helen and Douglas House youth hospice in Oxford.

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