When Lynn and Richard Weston lost their daughter Jennifer to a brain tumour aged just three, they could have crumbled. Instead, they have turned a private tragedy into a national charity that aims to help other families who are experiencing something similar. “It was as a result of the journey we followed with Jennifer that we become aware of the gaps in the system and how just a few little things could make all the difference to a child and their family,” says Lynn. “What we learned compelled us to try and make a difference to the next child that walked the same path.”
In 2004, they launched Clowns in the Sky. “The name for the charity came from Jennifer,” says Lynn. “One day we were travelling home from the hospital and she said, ‘Mummy, I can see clowns in the sky’. I thought she meant clouds but she was adamant it was clowns. When we came to name the charity we wanted something positive and forward-thinking. Clowns in the Sky fitted perfectly.”Clowns in the Sky is a national charity that operates on a local level and aims to bring a smile to the face of children suffering from brain tumours. It provides activity and sensory trolleys to 33 children’s wards in 24 hospitals around England, an initiative which has been supported by funding from The National Lottery.
It also sponsors children’s entertainers to visit hospital wards, supports families with immediate financial help to cover things like daily travel expenses and donates a percentage of its funds to medical research. “The play trolleys are designed to offer stimulation, distraction and play during times that the playrooms may be closed or when a child may be too unwell to visit the playroom,” explains Lynn. “By using the trolleys, the playroom can come to the child's bedside.” The trolleys are available 24/7, meaning there is never a time where a child cannot relax through play.
“We very much believe that quality of life, not quantity, is fundamental,” says Lynn. “It was the ethos of everything Jennifer represented and it's at the very heart of Clowns in the Sky.”
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