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Captain Tom inspires PPSPower’s Claire in unique charity challenge

04 May 2021

During the week, Claire Lee is Sales Supervisor for PPSPower, the Leeds-based provider of uninterruptible power supplies for customers nationwide.

The May Bank Holiday weekend saw key worker Claire marking what would have been Captain Tom’s 101st birthday by completing her own unique Captain Tom 100 Challenge.

The mum-of-five is raising money for Brain Tumour Research, by taking on a unique challenge inspired by Captain Sir Tom Moore.

Claire was photographed wearing 100 different dresses in 100 different locations, to raise vital funds for the charity.

It’s after her best friend’s son Fin Church died from a brain tumour in November 2015, 17 months after he was diagnosed with a glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). He was just 11 years old.

Claire said: “Fin’s mum Penny and I met in the pub where we both worked in Leeds 25 years ago and we’ve been best friends ever since.

"Penny went on to marry Wayne and they set up home in Alvechurch in the West Midlands. When Fin was born in May 2004, I drove down from Yorkshire to see him and Penny in hospital.

"Our families became close; the children get along really well and we’ve enjoyed many lovely holidays and days out together.

“Penny rang me when she first thought there was something wrong with Fin. He had started being sick in the mornings and was complaining of headaches. At first, his symptoms were passed off as a virus but as they persisted, he was given a scan, which revealed a lesion on his brain.

"That’s when Penny and Wayne’s worlds started to fall apart.”

Fin had another, more detailed scan and then a biopsy and surgery to debulk the mass. Eventually, his parents were told the diagnosis was a grade 4 GBM, a very aggressive form of brain cancer.

Claire said: “Penny had done her research and she knew that this tumour-type was as bad as it could get. The average survival time for patients is devastatingly short – just 12-18 months."

But from the outset they were determined to try anything and everything to ensure that Fin was going to beat the odds and that he would be a long-term survivor. Fin went on a clinical trial for the chemotherapy drug Avastin and he underwent a course of radiotherapy, to try to shrink the tumour.

In spite of his gruelling treatment regime, which also included further surgery, Fin was determined to do what he could for others and during his illness he helped to raise more than £100,000 for Brain Tumour Research and Birmingham Children’s Hospital, earning him the title of ‘Child of Courage’ at the Pride of Birmingham Awards and ‘Young Fundraiser of the Year’ at the Midlands Child of Courage Awards.

Claire said: “Fin was just so brave throughout. Towards the end, Penny called me and said he hadn't got long left, so I came to see him. There were things he just couldn’t talk to his mum about and she desperately wanted to know how he felt.

"I went up to Fin’s room and as we played cards together, I encouraged him to talk about his feelings, so I could write them down to share with his family.

"He agreed and so followed a courageous letter about his battle with cancer. It was my honour to read that letter at Fin’s funeral just a few weeks later.”

Inspired by Fin’s determination to help ensure others don’t suffer in the way he did, Claire is fundraising for Brain Tumour Research by digging out every single dress in her wardrobe and modelling them – plus 40 more – in 100 different locations.

She said: “My husband Jonny always says I’ve got hundreds of dresses. It turns out I have 60, so I’ve sourced an additional 40 from charity shops and generous friends.

"Over the past couple of weeks, Jonny has been photographing me in weird and wonderful locations around our local area, wearing a different dress in each place. I’ve been pictured wearing a black, silky number at my son’s boxing academy, I’ve worn a ball gown on a treadmill and I’ve even got into a wedding dress for a fun photoshoot involving a bottle of my favourite tipple – prosecco!

"It’s been time-consuming and completely bonkers but just the kind of whacky challenge Fin would have loved.”

Claire compiled all 100 images and produced a 60-second video, which was shared on her social media over the Bank Holiday weekend (1-3 May), to coincide with the nationwide campaign.

Claire’s 15-year-old daughter Kennedy Whitehead, a pupil at Selby High School, is getting involved with the challenge by doing a sponsored silence.

A keen seamstress, she is also stitching 100 pieces of fabric together to make a patchwork blanket.

Matthew Price, community development manager at Brain Tumour Research, said: “As a charity, we are delighted to be involved in Captain Tom’s 100 Challenge. His amazing efforts and demonstration of gratitude for key workers captured the hearts of the nation and inspired many others, including Brain Tumour Research supporters, to do their own fundraising.

“Claire’s challenge is wonderfully unique and a fantastic way of fundraising but also raising awareness of our vital cause.

"What she is doing in memory of Fin, whose life was cut all-too-short by this awful disease, is truly inspiring and we thank her and Kennedy sincerely for their support.

“Fin’s story reminds us that brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40, yet, historically, just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to brain tumours. We cannot allow this drastic situation to continue.”

Brain Tumour Research funds sustainable research at dedicated centres in the UK. It also campaigns for the Government and the larger cancer charities to invest more in research into brain tumours in order to speed up new treatments for patients and, ultimately, to find a cure.

The charity is calling for a national annual spend of £35 million in order to improve survival rates and patient outcomes in line with other cancers such as breast cancer and leukaemia and is also campaigning for greater repurposing of drugs.

To donate to Brain Tumour Research via Claire’s fundraising page, please visit: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Claire-Lee28

To donate to Brain Tumour Research via Kennedy’s fundraising page, please visit: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Kennedy-Whitehead


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