Many people who go on their first Neilson holiday find it a life-changing experience; learning a new sport, making new friends or taking the first steps towards getting fit perhaps. However for Amanda Roberts and her family it was the opportunity to laugh again that made the difference to them.
Amanda and husband Paul lost their son Spencer at the beginning of 2008, just before his 4th birthday and after a yearlong battle against neuroblastoma (a cancer that mainly affects children under five years old). Determined that Spencer’s memory and his amazing spirit should live on, Amanda, Paul and their young daughter Amalia, channelled their grief into campaigning tirelessly to raise funds for other families in similar situations. They set up a special website in Spencer’s honour, organised and took part in sponsored events and enlisted local organisations and individuals to contribute and participate.
However close friend Anna felt that having done so much for others they deserved something for themselves and nominated them for a holiday through Sail 4 Cancer. Anna explained:
“They have been through hell and back in the last couple of years. They are the strongest people I know but need all the family time they can get and things to look forward to, to get them through this very dark time.”
Sail 4 Cancer and Neilson work together to offer subsidised holidays to families living with cancer, including those recently bereaved through the disease, providing respite from hospital appointments and treatment, quality time together and the opportunity to feel “normal” again. And so the Roberts family set of to Halkidiki for what Amanda now calls their “holiday of a lifetime”.
Amalia, then aged 9 – and described by Anna as “a credit to herself and her family” in how she dealt with the loss of her little brother – really took to sailing and appears to be a natural on the water; on the last day of their holiday she sailed solo much to her delight. Meanwhile Paul achieved a lifelong ambition and learnt to windsurf, gaining his level 1 certificate in the process. He also took part in a triathlon whilst they were there, which he obviously enjoyed as he signed up for one back at home as soon as they returned!
Most important though was the effect the holiday had on the whole family. Amanda enthused on their return home:
“We can honestly say it was the best holiday we have ever had. It enabled me to gain my confidence back and once again try new things. And for all three of us it gave us the opportunity to laugh again, which as you can imagine has been sadly lacking in our lives, but I can honestly say Neilson made us so welcome and the tuition was first class, we really didn’t stop smiling the whole week. Neilson have the most amazing staff. Everyone at Neilson was terrific and the customer service provided by every member of the team was unbelievable. We are all eternally grateful as you have given us the ability to laugh again, which is a wonderful gift.”
To learn more about the Remember Spencer Fund, please see www.rememberspencer.co.uk