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Julie Stevens from Rustington is planning to hold a Teddy Bears Picnic with her partner Craig, 13-year-old daughter Mya, and five-year-old-daughter Hope, in memory of her son Brennan, who passed away in 2013.
The family took part in Chestnut Tree House’s virtual Teddy Bears Picnic campaign last year and raised an incredible £500. And they can’t wait to take part again.
“When we heard about Teddy Bears Picnic last year, we were all really excited to take part,” says Julie. “Seeing the struggles faced by Chestnut Tree House during the pandemic was really unsettling. With charity shops having to close and all planned fundraising events put on hold we really wanted to raise as much money as possible to help.”
The children’s hospice is urging families, schools, and nurseries to grab their favourite teddy bear and hold their very own picnics again this year to raise much needed funds for local children, like Brennan.
“Brennan was always so happy; he was a cheeky boy with a great sense of humour. He always lit up a room with his smile,”says Mum, Julie.
When Brennan was six years old, Julie noticed several worrying symptoms appear over a couple of weeks. “Brennan suddenly became very anxious and tearful at school, developed an unsteady
gait and a head tilt. Then came the crippling morning headaches and vomiting.”
After multiple visits to their local GP and A&E, Julie was getting more and more worried about Brennan’s health, so booked an emergency opticians appointment. “The tests showed that Brennan had swollen optic nerves and we were referred straight away to the eye clinic at the hospital. We went back the next morning for an MRI scan. And that’s when we got the results that he had a large tumour on his brain stem.”
At 2am, Julie and Brennan were then transferred by ambulance to Southampton hospital where a biopsy was taken of the tumour. “The results showed that the tumour was a grade 4 Glioblastoma Multiforme and we were given the devastating news that Brennan would only have up to three months to live without treatment.”
“We went home in total shock,” says Julie. Six-year-old Brennan was prescribed steroids which reduced some of his symptoms and began chemotherapy and radiotherapy. “This would not save him, but it would relieve the pressure on his brain and give him more time.”
Throughout this devastating time, the family were supported by Chestnut Tree House children’s hospice. “Chestnut Tree House became our safety blanket, and they were there for us in so many ways,” says Julie. “With their help we made lots of happy memories.”
Just eight months after his diagnosis, Brennan peacefully passed away at home on 7 February 2013. He was seven years old.
“Throughout everything Brennan never stopped smiling, he was the most caring and loving little boy. He was taken from us way too soon; he’s forever loved and missed.”
“If you’re thinking about taking part in Teddy Bears Picnic this year, then please, get involved! Eat lots of cake, have fun with your loved ones and raise much needed funds for Chestnut Tree House, they are such a worthy cause,” says Julie.
Anyone can take part in Teddy Bears Picnic, and it’s free to sign up. To find out how your family, school, or nursey can get involved, please visit www.chestnut-tree-house.org.uk/teddybearspicnic