This year’s Grand National winning jockey helped give a group of seriously ill children a VIP day at the races they will never forget.
The youngsters – who all live with a range of serious medical conditions – took in the action at Carlisle Racecourse as part of a charity partnership between The Jockey Club and the Barrie Wells Trust.
Cumbria’s premier racecourse laid on an executive box, lunch and a guest appearance by Derek Fox, who rode One For Arthur to victory in this year’s Randox Health Grand National.
The day was all made possible due to the ongoing partnership between The Jockey Club, which owns Carlisle racecourse, and Box4Kids, founded and funded entirely by philanthropist Barrie Wells.
The initiative gives seriously ill children and their families the chance to enjoy entertainment and sporting events in executive boxes donated for the day by a range of organisations.
The days provide quality time for each child and their families, away from the day-to-day challenges they face with their illnesses.
The Carlisle box was provided by The Jockey Club, so the children and their families could enjoy a half-term treat watching some first-class sport.
For most of the young visitors at Carlisle it was their first chance to see live racing, get close to the horses in the paddock, try on some racing silks and meet top jockey Derek.
Among those enjoying the day were families from Carlisle, Barrow and Hartlepool.
Sisters Leah and Lexi Wallace from Carlisle (pictured above with their family and Derek Fox) were joined at the races by their mum Claire, dad Simon and brothers Kelvin, 14, and Noah, seven. Lexi, 11, who goes to Caldew School, must travel to Glasgow for treatment for her heart condition. Leah, nine, is a type one diabetic and attends Great Orton Primary School.
Mum Claire said both girls deserved a treat and were delighted to be invited. She said: “They had great fun. They both have a lot to contend with. Lexi can’t keep up with other children and has spent a fair bit of time in hospital.
“With Leah we have to watch absolutely everything she eats or drinks because of her insulin levels. Everything, even the juice she’s drinking, has to be counted so we can keep her stable.”
Elvin Graham (above left) from Barrow, said it was the closest he had ever been to horses. The nine-year-old from Reynolds Place, has osteogenesis imperfecta (OI) - also known as brittle bone disease - and has already suffered 25 breaks/fractures in his young life. He must be extremely careful about physical contact and being outdoors.
Elvin, who goes to Dane Ghyll Primary in Barrow, enjoyed the races with his aunt Steph Moore. He said: “Everyone has been really nice. I can’t believe we are so close to where the horses run past and we can see them in the ring before they race as well.”
Isaac Atyeo (above 2nd right) from Hartlepool is due to undergo surgery later this month – but that didn’t stop him enjoying his treat with gran Pam Turnedge.
The 12-year-old, of Masefield Road and a student at High Tunstall College, has an auto immune deficiency which leaves him suffering from several allergies and asthma.
Mrs Turnedge said: “Isaac doesn’t let anything get him down. Despite all the setbacks and hospital visits, he’s always a joker.
“Neither he nor his mum ever gets a night’s sleep. And he’s got to have some fairly major surgery on his legs, so it’s really nice that we’ve been able to come and enjoy the racing – his face lit up when the jockey came in.”
Derek Fox joined the children in between his four rides on the day for Lucinda Russell and Barry Murtagh, and said: “It was an absolute privilege to meet the children. They all seemed to be on great form and enjoying the day. It was a really nice thing to be part of.”
Geraldine McKay, Carlisle Racecourse’s General Manager, said: “Box4Kids is a wonderful initiative and one Carlisle Racecourse and The Jockey Club is delighted to partner with.
“Children and their families love coming to the racecourse and getting up close to the horses and the action. Everyone enjoys the days and we would encourage other sporting venues and organisations to get involved with this fantastic charity.”
Organisations can donate executive boxes at sports and entertainment venues to the Barrie Wells Trust for individual events and his Box4Kids team then handle all the logistics for the day.
Barrie Wells said: “We are so grateful for everything The Jockey Club has done for Box4Kids. They always offer fantastic hospitality to our guests and go the extra mile to ensure these very deserving children have the very best VIP experiences.”
Tim Richards, who hosted the box at Carlisle for Box4Kids, added: “When you see the kids enjoy the day it is so nice for them. We have some children who come straight from hospital and then go straight back in. This is a lovely break for them and their families.”
If you have an executive box that you would like to offer to Box4Kids to use please visit www.barriewellstrust.org/box4kids for more details.