A Chocolate Orange update for 2019
Every year at Christmas time I collect thousands of chocolate oranges to donate to medical staff and children who have to spend the holiday in hospital, in memory of my son Elliott.
Elliott suffered from a condition called Congenital Cytomeglavirus. He spent a lot of his life in hospital. When Elliott was in hospital over Christmas in 2008, with pneumonia, I bought one of the physiotherapists a chocolate orange as a thank you gift.
Word soon got around, so I bought more and more to thank the medical staff caring for Elliott and others. When I told people what I’d done they started buying them too, giving them to me to pass on.
I never wanted to celebrate Christmas again when Elliott passed away just before Christmas in 2010 aged 4. But then I decided I wanted to do something positive to cherish his memory. Elliott never gave up despite all that was thrown at him from the day he was born. He completely changed my life and made me focus on the important things, caring for others, kindness and being thankful for every day. So I started an appeal for chocolate oranges to collect as many as possible for the following Christmas in Elliott’s memory. I wanted to say thank you to those who care and for the incredible work they do for all our loved ones.
In the first year, I collected 145, since then thousands upon thousands of people have joined my appeal, and to date we have received over 72,000. It is absolutely incredible and very humbling to think about the effect that this has had.
The DWP and other government departments have been fantastic in supporting me, and the challenge has grown year on year. Across the country, you’ll see pyramids of chocolate oranges in DWP offices as colleagues get into the Christmas spirit and donate in Elliott’s memory.
It’s a difficult time of year for many people and I feel that we all need some hope in life. By doing this challenge every year I’ve managed to touch the hearts of many, help people who have suffered their own loss and spread a bit of cheer at Christmas.
Make a difference Friday
On the Friday in December following Elliott’s birthday, I deliver as many of the chocolate oranges as possible – this year it was almost 20,000 with more still to deliver right up until Christmas day. It’s turned into a mad dash to get as many delivered as physically possible, with me and my supporters racing all over the country!
I’ve had so much help in doing this as the story of my challenge spread. I even have a special chocolate orange lorry to help me with the deliveries, Lancashire DAF have donated a driver and lorry for the few years, which they logo up especially for delivery day.
In 2016 I appeared on the local BBC North West Tonight news and Granada TV as well as local radio. I’m invited back regularly to speak about the appeal and why it is so important.
This year we also hosted carol concerts in conjunction with local schools in the St Helens and Bolton areas.
What started off as a small but special thank you has turned into a movement of people who want to do something constructive for others and share some kindness.
An orange glow
I’m lighting the UK orange!
When I first wrote this blog-post in 2017 I was excited that my local seaside town of Blackpool would be lighting the tower orange on the 15th. They did it again for us on the 13th. In Newcastle/Gateshead the Millennium Bridge was lit up orange along with the Mersey Gateway Bridge - which was awesome.
In my hometown of St Helen’s, we held a final collection with over 5,000 chocolate oranges delivered across the region. Local schools, businesses and charities really get involved and it was amazing to welcome students from the Princes Trust this year who collected over 800. We celebrated the event with choirs and singers from our borough.
And in Manchester, ‘The Steve Prescott Foundation’ delivered 2800 to The Christie Hospital, one for every member of staff there.
The level of support from colleagues has been astounding with people in every part of the UK now holding their own collections.
In the North East a whole team of colleagues has been supporting me for the last few years, donating to charities, foundations, hospitals and hospices who’ve supported loved ones. Particularly close to my heart, and where Elliott spent time are Zoe’s Place for babies and infants, Alder Hey and Whiston hospital.
Colleagues in Blackpool also collect for Brian House children’s hospice, Trinity hospice with around 1,000 donated this year.
In Leeds and Sheffield, colleagues have regularly collected and donated to local hospitals.
In our London hub colleagues collected over 500 chocolate oranges this year, which were donated to the nurses in Evelina House, the Children’s hospital linked to St. Thomas’s hospital. It was amazing to deliver them again on 16 December.
When I look back at what we’ve achieved together over the last 8 years I can't thank friends and colleagues enough. Elliott would have been 13 years old now and I’m so humbled and proud that the chocolate orange appeal is helping to keep his memory alive. It’s simply amazing!