Sheffield dads united by sons’ cancer battle sky dive for their life-savers

Two dads who met when their sons had cancer treatment are raising money for the hospital that saved their lads. Catherine Scott reports.

Richard Earl and Steve Walch
Richard Earl and Steve Walch

Dads Steve Walch and Richard Earl first met in 2019 when their sons, Harrison and Bobby, were receiving treatment on the Cancer and Leukaemia Ward at Sheffield Children’s Hospital.

Bobby was 11 when his parents noticed he had become really pale and was running much slower than usual during football. They took him to hospital and within hours,Bobby had been transferred to the Cancer and Leukaemia Ward.

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“They told us that Bobby was really poorly. Our whole world just collapsed,” recalls Richard.

Bobby Earl was diagnosed with aplastic anemia

“They discovered it was aplastic anemia and Bobby’s bone marrow had stopped working and that he would need a transplant to survive.

“The search for Bobby’s bone marrow donor began straight away, we all got tested but none of us were a match. So, we waited for a donor to be found on the bone marrow register.”

Just weeks before Bobby’s diagnosis, in April 2019, the Walch family were admitted to the Cancer and Leukaemia Ward. Harrison, 14, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia. Dad Steve says: “Harrison was just a normal teenager, a healthy, strong lad. He had become run down with some bruising so we went to the doctors. We were transferred to Sheffield Children’s and he was diagnosed with leukaemia.” Harrison had to have regular chemotherapy for six months on the Cancer and Leukaemia Ward where he is still being treated.

Harrison and Bobby’s diagnosis, just weeks apart, meant the two families crossed paths on the ward and in the most difficult of circumstances soon became a source of support for each other.

Harrison Walch, 14, was diagnosed with acute myloid lukaemie

“I went into the parent room around a week after Harrison had been diagnosed and I saw Richard, Bobby’s dad. They had just been admitted and given Bobby’s diagnosis and I just said to him: ‘I know how you feel, it feels like we are living in an alternative universe’ and that was it,” says Steve. “We have supported each other ever since.”

Bobby is now recovering at home, visiting once a month for check-ups.

Inspired by the resilience of their sons and the care they have received from the staff, Steve and Richard decided to jump 15,000ft to raise money for the hospital with Harrison’s older sister, Daisy, and close friends Paul Hurst, the Rotherham United legend, and Nathan Ennis.

Steve Walch and Richard Earl have raised more than £7,600 so far from their skydive.

The money will support The Children’s Hospital Charity’s appeal to build a new Cancer and Leukaemia Ward at Sheffield Children’s Hospital.

It will have a separate place for older children like Harrison and Bobby, as well as en-suite facilities and space for a parent to sleep more comfortably alongside their child.