Cancer survivors and pals put up for award

Eilish O'Dowd from John F Kennedy School has been nominated along with her school pals for a Yopey award.
Eilish O'Dowd from John F Kennedy School has been nominated along with her school pals for a Yopey award.

A teenager battling cancer got her school pals to help her raise cash for a charity that helps sick youngsters.

Now Eilish Dowd from Hemel Hempstead’s John F Kennedy School and her friends have been nominated for a young people award.

The 16-year-old was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in the autumn of last year. She underwent chemotherapy and went on to gain GCSEs.

Teacher Brian Finnegan said that Eilish expressed a wish to raise funds for the Teenage Cancer Trust to say thanks for the help they had given her. With colleagues she asked the trust if there were any items they could sell on its behalf.

They received badges, wristbands and keys rings which sold very quickly.

Then the day after their Year 11 prom dozens of 
pupils, led by Eilish, came into the Hollybush Lane school and did a 10k sponsored walk around the grounds in the pouring rain.

Mr Finnegan said: “Eilish did not express self-pity or defeatism but in addition to remaining attentive to her education she gave her time and energy helping to organise and being the driving force behind the fundraising initiative around school.

“She was a real inspiration to her peers, not just for fundraising but also her academic work and love of life. She oozed happiness and positivity.”

The group raised £1,400 for the trust.

In February, Geoffrey Gower, a Year 10 pupil at the school, lost his battle with cancer.

After his death a group of pupils including Robert Binns, Shannon Foy, Christian Hill, Harry Martin, Oliver Flint, Joe McGeever, Ross Jenkins, Tom Cattini, Joshua McMullen and James Wigg, who also had cancer,­ decided to do something in his memory.

Initially some made beaded wristbands to sell, but could not keep up with demand so the pupils had hundreds of wristbands made out of rubber.

They organised raffles with donated prizes and also wore sashes and T-shirts to raise awareness of the charities that they were helping –­ Keech Cottage Hospice, Indee Rose Trust and Teenage Cancer Trust.

They raised more than £700, some of which will be used to plant a tree in Geoffrey’s memory.

Student James, 15, was diagnosed with cancer in his left knee two years ago and had undergone chemotherapy. An operation to remove a tumour meant that he had to have a false knee and for a time had to use a wheelchair. He finished his treatment before Geoffrey died.

Mr Finnegan said: “Despite having suffered himself, James selflessly threw himself into fundraising with the others. He even spoke to assembly about inspiration brought on by his own experience.”

This year’s University of Hertfordshire Young People of the Year has a prize pot totalling £2,000 up for grabs to positive role models like the JFK students.

Anyone aged between 10 
and 25 who gives to others can be nominated by visiting or write to YOPEY, PO Box 236, Newmarket CB8 1DP, enclosing an SAE, for paper entry form.