A couple who tragically lost their teenage son to cancer have been nominated for a prestigious award after raising almost £120,000 through a fund they set up with bone cancer charity, Bone Cancer Research Trust.
Mike and Louise Ashton of Harrogate are in the running for ‘Fundraiser of the Year’ in the popular Yorkshire Choice Awards following 12 months’ of intensive campaigning, all whilst coping with the loss of their son, 14-year-old Frank Ashton.
The husband and wife duo set up their own charity, Frank’s Fund shortly after Frank passed away in February 2019 after losing his life to Ewing Sarcoma – a type of cancerous tumour that forms in bone or soft tissue.
Ewing sarcoma most commonly affects children and young adults aged 10-25 years old and makes up about 1.5% of all childhood cancers. A child, teenager or adult is diagnosed with primary bone cancer every 10 minutes, but primary bone cancer received just 0.04% of funding from the major UK cancer charities in 2017/18 and shockingly their investment in the disease dropped by 43% to a 16-year low.
Hoping to raise vital funds for life saving research into the disease, the duo organised a variety of activities throughout the district including a ‘Bake for Frank’ bake sale on what would have been Frank’s 15th birthday, cinema events for Frank’s friends and sponsored walks, cycle rides and runs, as well as designing and selling Frank’s Fund Christmas cards and wristbands.
Through active campaigning across their social media platforms, they have also been able to enlist the support of the local and wider communities who have held fundraising events in Frank’s name.
In July 2019, Frank’s school, St Aidan’s High School in Harrogate, held a sponsored walk raising over £25,000 for the charity. Harrogate Town Football Club also held a football match in Frank’s honour, where Frank’s friends were invited to take part in the Guard of Honour.
Other individuals have completed challenges such as the Great North Run, the Jurassic Coast Challenge and Sussex Downs Walk, all in the name of Frank’s Fund. Local micro-brewery, Cold Bath Brewery has launched a beer in Frank’s name; To Be Frank, whilst The Little Ale House in Harrogate has brewed a beer from hops that they’ve grown, with 50p a pint going to Frank’s Fund.
Commenting on their nomination, Louise Ashton said: “It’s great to be recognised for our hard work but it’s not about us; it’s about Frank and about raising money to research Ewing sarcoma in the hope that other young people won’t have to go through what Frank went through.
“It is a terrible time for us but the support of the community and what we have been able to achieve has helped us focus on achieving something positive form this dreadful tragedy.”
Louise has recently returned to work at a local charity, the Association for Perioperative Practice, but with the support of the charity and members of the community she and Mike will continue to raise vital funds for much needed research.
Speaking proudly of Louise and Mike, Dawn Stott CEO of the association said:” Loosing a family member is always difficult but to lose a child at such a young age must be so hard; something none of us want to even think about.
“I am in awe of Louise’s strength and the work she is doing to raise funds, whilst also raising awareness of this rare form of cancer. She is already making a difference within our organisation; her drive is brilliant, and we will do whatever we can do to support her with her fundraising efforts.’
To nominate Louise and Mike please visit www.yorkshirechoiceawards.co.uk/votehere.
Frank was so full of life, so full of energy. He made his family laugh everyday with his quirky sense of humour and his big, cheeky grin.
Frank loved so much about life. Family and friends were the most important things to him. He loved all the simple things that every 14-year-old boy enjoys – sleepovers with friends where they forced themselves to stay up all night, eating buckets of sweets and watching horror movies, playing in the park, kicking a ball, going to the cinema. And then there was Nando’s. Frank loved a Nando’s with his mates.
Frank loved his sport too. He showed great potential at golf and tennis as well as football, swimming and netball. He was really looking forward to starting basketball at secondary school. He was an avid Chelsea supporter and often saw them play. They never lost when Frank was there, so he decided that he was definitely their lucky mascot.
From a very young age Frank loved theatre. He loved watching live shows. He was intuitive beyond his years, loving plays and TV dramas that his parents never thought he’d understand or sit through. He was often the youngest person in the theatre but always one of the most engaged.
In April 2016, just as Frank was looking forward to the next phase in his life at secondary school, his family’s world collapsed when he was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, a form of bone cancer. He was just 11 years old.
The next 12 months were tougher for Frank than anything his family could ever have imagined; 14 exhausting cycles of chemotherapy, 2 months of proton therapy in the US and an horrific 8-hour operation to remove the tumour and a substantial part of his pelvis.
Frank had raw courage when learning to walk again after his operation and the way he quietly got about rebuilding his life and getting back to school was said to be awe inspiring.
Then in September 2017, after just 5 months in remission, his family found out the disease had returned. Frank was confronted with further endless cycles of chemotherapy and radiotherapy with just a tiny chance that it could cure him. Somehow, he found the strength to keep going and the spirit to remain cheerful. He just wanted to behave and be treated like any other teenage boy. If anyone asked him how he was feeling they always received the same answer, ‘I’m good thanks’, accompanied by a huge grin.
The Ashtons enjoyed a brilliant Christmas together but by the middle of January 2019 Frank’s health was failing fast. The beautiful boy’s short life ended on 9th February 2019. His family are left devastated but set up Frank’s fund in order to prevent other children having to suffer as Frank did.