Over 45 years Candlelighters have continually evolved to provide superb support for children and their families, spanning emotional, practical and financial support, and investment in vital childhood cancer research. Candlelighters strive to embed the needs and wants of children at a strategic level, ensuring our support is the best it possibly can be and that donations generously received from the public are always well spent. Recently we hosted a series of innovative events called ‘Young Dreamers’ to help fulfil this, inviting patients (past and present) and their siblings to local events to give feedback and shape the support available for families now and in the future.

To allow children across Yorkshire to be part of Young Dreamers, we ran the community sessions in a number of locations to which over 40 children attended. In West Yorkshire, children joined us at Little Deer Wood Activity Centre in Mirfield where they spent the morning undertaking fun, engaging, child-friendly activities to share thoughts and feedback on virtually every aspect of the charity, from marketing to finance, and fundraising to support services. In the afternoon the children enjoyed a number of activities from orienteering to a treasure hunt to archery. In East Yorkshire, the event was held at Welton Waters where the afternoon activity featured sailing, and in North Yorkshire, Ripley Castle was the location for the Young Dreamers where they enjoyed an orienteering challenge around the beautiful castle grounds in the afternoon after their morning workshops.

Natalie Kisby, Head of Family Support at Candlelighters said “It’s really important to us that children’s ideas and opinions form part of our future planning. Our services are designed to support them and their families so it’s only right that they are able to take part in the design of what we do to ensure that our services and support deliver what is needed for children and their families. The Young Dreamers community days were hugely successful, the children gave us so many ideas and feedback and they really enjoyed taking part in the planning events and importantly all had a wonderful day.”

Children who took part in these initial events were also given the chance to apply for their ‘dream job’ at Candlelighters – any role, from the CEO to Family Support to Housekeeper. On Thursday 28th October, children who applied for these jobs got to spend the day at Candlelighters’ family support centre, The Square, ‘working’ in these roles, providing further ideas and feedback.

18 children attended the Young Dreamers Takeover day, meeting the extended Candlelighters team, as well as Associate Professor Ryan Mathew, an academic neurosurgeon who receives funding from Candlelighters, hearing about his role treating patients with brain tumours and progressing groundbreaking research into the disease. The children then went to work in their chosen department, experiencing a taste of working for the charity. Children joining the Family Support Team helped to plan out upcoming patient and sibling support groups and events as well as getting The Square ready for Halloween. Three children took on the role of CEO, meeting with Vice-Chair David Mayman to help review the charity’s strategies and plans. Other children helped the fundraising team devise new ways to raise funds and thank supporters, or spent time doing film and photography with the marketing team and preparing content to promote our Christmas cards and raffle. We also had a HR manager for the day who added to the charity’s interview questions and developed new staff wellbeing ideas.

At the end of the day, we held our annual Halloween party with the Young Dreamers and many other children we support in attendance, taking part in games, activities, dancing and more! The events we hold for children affected by childhood cancer are vital for mental wellbeing, giving them the opportunity to make new friends, have fun, and simply spend time enjoying being children when they’ve had to deal with the life-changing impacts of childhood cancer.

Emily Wragg, CEO of Candlelighters said, “The Young Dreamers events and takeover day have been absolutely amazing. We set out to create a child-friendly way for children to be involved in the strategic planning process for Candlelighters and to educate them on the importance of the third sector and how it works. We’ll continue to run more Young Dreamers events to ensure we have a continual feedback mechanism from children to take to our board of trustee’s to help make decisions about the direction of the charity. We hope that the Young Dreamers programme will mean that in time, some of these children will be able to join our board and those of other charities as they grow older to use their experiences and knowledge to help secure the future of an important sector”.

Emily also added, “I want to say a huge thank you to the children that have taken part in Young Dreamers. Amongst a lot of fun days they’ve given us a huge amount of feedback and ideas to think about to continually improve Candlelighters. I loved spending time with my group of mini CEO’s on our takeover day. I knew I was in for a challenge when they arrived equipped with their own laptops and notebooks and they certainly put me through my paces!”

Candlelighters rely on the support of members of the public and businesses to continue our work supporting children and their families through childhood cancer across Yorkshire. If you’d like to find out more about supporting Candlelighters, you can find out more here or call us on 0113 322 9283.

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