Laurie Engel was a smart, funny, charming, sparky, sporty boy. He grew up in the beautiful Golden Valley in Herefordshire. At the age of 11 he wanted to win Wimbledon or, failing that, be a sports writer like his dad. The world appeared to be at his feet.
Then he was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive cancer. Despite more than a year of intensive treatment, he died in September 2005, aged 13.
Laurie was treated at Birmingham Children's Hospital, the childhood cancer centre for much of England. The Engel family found the medical care there world-class, but the facilities and surroundings dismal. The hospital staff were also desperate to improve things.
The Engel family set up the Laurie Engel Fund to try to ensure future patients have better conditions than Laurie did. Working initially with Teenage Cancer Trust, the fund raised £1.1m – and as a result a new £2.5m teenage unit opened in 2010. It has been a huge success, delighting patients, parents and staff and setting new standards at the hospital.
The snag was that the unit created a big discrepancy between the facilities available to teenagers and to younger children, who are still being housed in the old, low-grade wards. Recognising the problem, Birmingham Children’s Hospital launched an appeal to build a whole new cancer department.
In 2013 the Engels decided to redirect Laurie’s fund to support this cause – to try to give all the young cancer patients the amenities they deserve; and the best possible chance of recovery.
In May 2013 Laurie’s sister Vika celebrated her 15th birthday – and what should have been Laurie’s 21st – by travelling 100 miles across Wales on horseback with Karen Roberts and Louise Johnson from Cardigan Bay to Hay-on-Wye, raising £25,000 for the fund. In June Laurie's cousin Rachel Engel completed her first Triathlon, and raised £7000. Other friends and relatives, including Steve Barnett, Patricia Davies, Jane Keating, Tony Engel and Ruth and Mervyn Lesser, organised many more donations.
Now, in 2015, Rachel Engel and Jeanne Dippenaar have invited guests to donate to Laurie's fund on the occasion of their wedding at Easter. And Laurie's schoolfriend, George Wood-Cole, is in training for a Tough Mudder challenge in May.
Please support them, Laurie, and all the children who will have to endure treatment for cancer in the future.
Many thanks for your help. Matthew and Hilary Engel
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