Gloucestershire’s Unsung Hero

In Commentary, HOME, LIFE by Sam Prance

In 2009, I earned the title of ‘Gloucestershire’s Young Hero’ at the ‘Pride of Gloucestershire Awards’ for my charity work in the community.

I was speechless. This was something I couldn’t begin to comprehend. I had just spent an evening celebrating other people’s incredible achievements and here people were celebrating mine. To those closest to me, this was a lovely celebration of the things I’d achieved but to me, although much appreciated, it was a shock. All the work I had done that lead up to that award was just second nature to me.

*   *   *

I was 10 and my brother, Freddie, was 7. We walked into the Intensive Care Unit of Gloucester Royal Hospital hand in hand – excited to meet our new baby brother. What we saw next we’ll never forget.

10808161_10152872914321341_1765975083_nThe epitome of precious.

My mum had been lying in hospital for 5 long weeks, and when she gave birth, it was 3 months before it was supposed to happen. We couldn’t touch our newborn brother. We couldn’t hold him. We could barely see him. My parents tried to force smiles but what excitement Freddie and I had had when entering that room was immediately squandered by the reality that lay before us. We were all worried as to whether this little boy in front of us would survive.

That boy was my youngest brother: Archie Harold Pearce. Archie turned ten years old this year. He was 2lb 12 when he was born and 2lb 7 by the next morning. He spent 100 days in hospital before he came home; 4 weeks in intensive care, 4 weeks in high dependency and 6 weeks in special care. He’s had 5 blood transfusions and come close to death more times than I can count.

Hospital is not some distant place to Archie. It is a place where he has spent a significant part of his life thus far – defying the opinions, thoughts and dreads of doctors, nurses, friends and family with every breath he takes. And if it weren’t for a very dear charity to us, The James Hopkins Trust, it’s unlikely that Archie or my family would be here, as we are, today.

Me and the boys.

The James Hopkin’s Trust is a Gloucestershire based charity for severely disabled, life threatened and life limited children. It relieves families for a few hours a week of the responsibility of full time childcare. Ultimately aiming to improve the quality of these children’s lives and the families who raise them.

The James Hopkin’s Trust offered support to my family in the early years of Archie’s life. A nurse came to visit every week in the first few months when Archie was not allowed outdoors. And when he was a bit bigger, the charity enabled my mum to bring Archie to their centre, Kite’s Corner, to spend time with him in a child-friendly environment, alongside other parents who were experiencing similar difficulties.

Archie’s life and my family’s were vastly improved by the services and support that the James Hopkins’ Trust was able to provide and it’s because of this that I was inspired to get involved in charity work myself. My first official dabble in philanthropy was aged ten when I walked into town in my school uniform and played the clarinet for the Tsunami Appeal. I managed to raised just over £1000 that afternoon.

10815975_10152872914361341_371622496_nYeah – I was super cool.

I think doing something like that at such a young age made me realise how much you can achieve for a cause with determination and since then I’ve tried to get involved with fundraising as much as I can.

For the past seven Christmases, for example, I’ve taken friends carol singing in Cheltenham town centre to raise money for the James Hopkin’s Trust and other brilliant charities. Crissy Ryan, Claudia Stebbings and Sash Lowdon, respectively, have helped me in raising thousands of pounds for them. It was this work which lead to my ‘Gloucestershire’s Young Hero’ award.

10808167_10152872914351341_901695708_nFrom left: Christina Ryan, Me, Archie, Sash  Lowdon, Claudia Stebbings

I didn’t raise money for awards though nor because I’d seen programs like Children In Need. I raised it because the experiences of families on programs like Children in Need were similar to those of my own.

As a result of Archie’s conditions, growing up, family life was strained and broken. I had to rely on my incredible grandparents for support more than I would have liked and I had to grow up far more quickly than my peers. Regardless though, I consider myself lucky that my two younger brothers are alive and healthy. I couldn’t be prouder of them. They are the most loving young men I know.

And my mum and dad, in spite of it all, somehow managed to hold fort and just be there whilst all the hospital trips, birthdays, sibling arguments and near death experiences went on. My mum is a heroine.

10815981_10152872914366341_1058285769_nMy beautiful mum with her amazing dad.

Without the help of The James Hopkin’s Trust, however, things would have been much harder for Archie and my parents than they already were. I encourage you, if you haven’t already, to find a charity to support. They’re the real heroes, not me – and they really do make a difference.

Emily Pearce

Emily is a geography student at Cardiff University. She enjoys being stubborn, referring to people as ‘mate’ and impersonating the various characters of Summer Heights High. When not studying or doing these things, Emily can be found chilling with family or out on the lash, dancing with friends in various states of inebriation.

To find out more about the James Hopkins Trust visit their website:

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