Eastbourne celebrations after child cancer charity raises more than £1 million

The Ball at the Grand Hotel, Eastbourne
The Ball at the Grand Hotel, Eastbourne

A local charity has celebrated making more than £1 million in 25 years with a black tie ball held at the Grand Hotel.

Charlie’s Challenge was set up by a family who thought they were going to lose their only son to a brain tumour when he was diagnosed aged just 20 months.

Charlie in intensive care

Charlie in intensive care

Charlie Boutwood was 19 months old when he started falling over and being sick, but his parents, Nigel and Nettie of Heathfield, said they were originally told his symptoms were due to hay fever.

Eventually Charlie was referred for a CT scan which devastatingly revealed an enormous tumour in his brain.

Nigel said, “Our treasured son was facing an operation which it was highly possible he would not survive, and if he did there was a strong possibility that he would be unable to talk, swallow or move his limbs and could be blind.

“Incredibly, and to our utmost relief, Charlie not only made it through the eight hour operation, which removed three quarters of the tumour, but, soon after, was able to raise his arm and say ‘Mummy’.”

Charlie underwent a year of intense chemotherapy, followed by six weeks of radiotherapy and made a remarkable recovery.

He is now a happy, healthy 26-year-old, working in marketing in London. But the same fairy-tale-ending does not hold true for so many brain tumour patients.

Nigel said, “We discovered brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer, yet just one per cent of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to brain tumours.

“We realised how lucky we were to still have Charlie. It led me to set up Charlie’s Challenge to raise funds for research into paediatric brain tumours.

“Over the years, we have had the most amazing support from friends, businesses and the local community, who have sponsored or taken part in events ranging from cycle rides, golf days, tennis tournaments, sailing events, shoots and abseils to climbing the Three Peaks, running marathons, or attending our Charlie’s Challenge balls.

“I am really proud to say that this has enabled us to raise more than £1 million to fund research into children’s brain tumours at various universities over the years.

“As a founding member charity of pioneering national charity Brain Tumour Research, we were delighted to collaborate with them and fellow member charity Ali’s Dream to establish Brain Tumour Research’s Centre of Excellence within the University of Portsmouth in 2010 and have continued to support the paediatric research there ever since.

“Charlie’s Challenge was also one of the initial funders of BRAIN UK, a virtual tumour tissue bank of over 400,000 samples of all types of brain tumours, stored in 26 centres around the UK.

“BRAIN UK gives researchers access to tissue samples and has proved to be a vital resource for the study of all types of brain tumours.”

At the ball on Saturday (November 18), Nigel said, “Tonight I want to raise a glass to all of you who have helped us so incredibly generously to achieve so much.

“Thank you all from the bottom of my heart. We have come so far, but we are committed to continue our efforts. Charlie’s ultimate Challenge is to find a cure so that parents no longer face the prospect of losing their children to this devastating disease.”

Guests at the Charlie’s Challenge Ball enjoyed a three course dinner as well as a photo booth and danced the night away to music provided by Sussex band the Skarlettos. The glittering event raised a magnificent £31,500.

For more information visit www.charlieschallenge.com and www.braintumourresearch.org