Laurie was a smart, funny, charming, sparky, sporty boy who lived on a farm in Herefordshire with his parents, Matthew and Hilary, and his little sister, Vika. Until he was eleven he was as fit as a fiddle, and his ambition was either to win Wimbledon, or maybe become a writer like his Dad. Then he was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive cancer. After more than a year of intensive treatment, he died, when he was just thirteen.
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.
In 2005 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 was 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 were still being housed in the old, low-grade wards. Recognising the problem, Birmingham Children’s Hospital launched an appeal to bring all their cancer facilities into a similar class.
In 2013 the Laurie Engel Fund switched to supporting the hospital’s own appeal. The target was reached, and a new four-storey cancer centre for patients of all ages, Waterfall House, opened in 2018.
The Laurie Engel Fund is now again supporting Teenage Cancer Trust, raising funds for activities, outings and treats to boost morale for the young people receiving treatment on the teenage unit, and their families.
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