A year after their son lost his battle with cancer, Mike and Louise Ashton are nominated for an award. Catherine Scott reports.
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 in his memory.
Mike and Louise Ashton of Harrogate are in the running for ‘Fundraiser of the Year’ in the Yorkshire Choice Awards following 12 months of intensive campaigning, all whilst coping with the loss of their son, 14-year-old Frank.
They set up Frank’s Fund shortly after Frank lost his life to Ewing Sarcoma – a type of cancerous tumour that forms in bone or soft tissue – in February last year.
Hoping to raise vital funds for life saving research into the disease, his grieving parents and sister organised a variety of activities 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.
In July 2019, Frank’s school, St Aidan’s High School in Harrogate, held a sponsored walk raising over £25,000. 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.
“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,” says mum Louise.
“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 from this dreadful tragedy.”
Louise has recently returned to work at a local charity, the Association for Perioperative Practice.
Speaking 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.”
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, two months of proton therapy in the US and an horrific eight-hour operation to remove the tumour which also involved removing 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 five 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.
Frank had always been a “live-wire”, say his parents, the kind of child that could light up a room with his kindness and quirky sense of humour.
He had faced it all with unwavering courage, they add, determined to continue with school, sports, and trips to Nando’s with friends.
“He never really wanted anybody to know he was ill,” says his mum.
The Ashtons enjoyed a brilliant Christmas together but by the middle of January 2019 Frank’s health was failing fast.
“Their beautiful boy’s” short life ended on 9th February 2019.
His family are left devastated but set up Frank’s fund in order to try and prevent other children from having to suffer as Frank did.
To nominate Louise and Mike visit www.yorkshirechoiceawards.co.uk/votehere.