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Memory of 9 year-old who passed away from brain tumour lives on thanks to her parents and National Lottery players

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Area:
Wales
Programme:
People and Places
Release date:
8 12 2017

The family and friends of a young girl who passed away from an inoperable brain tumour is celebrating the news that National Lottery money will see the memory of their child live on.

Rhianna’s Swing in Neath Port Talbot are one of 10 projects across Wales sharing in £2,666,319 as part of the latest round of the Big Lottery Fund’s People and Places programme. (For a full list of awards, click here)

Watch Rhianna’s friend, Kobi, aged seven, as he’s surprised with the news that the park has been funded

They will use £50,000 to expand an existing play park in Gnoll Country Park, Neath, integrating new equipment to create a fully accessible park that can be used by both able-bodied and disabled children including those that are more severely disabled and confined to wheelchairs, making it a fully inclusive play area.

In April 2015 Rhianna was diagnosed with a Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine glioma, a brain tumour in the middle of the brain stem, and a devastating diagnosis which would change her, and her family’s, life forever.

Her diagnosis led to starting an intensive course of radiotherapy and physiotherapy sessions, and a pioneering treatment at Bristol Children’s Hospital called Convection Enhanced Delivery to try shrink the tumour, but it had quickly resulted in her becoming wheelchair bound.

Over the following months her parents took her to Ynysangharad Park in Pontypridd, which has a disabled access swing, and it meant the world to her to be able to join her able bodied friends on some of the equipment. She enjoyed it so much that her parents looked for other playgrounds with specialist equipment but there were not any in Wales.

An MRI scan revealed that although treatment had shrunk the tumour, it had spread, and sadly on the 23 June 2016 Rhianna passed away surrounded by her family.

Joanne Chellew, Rhianna’s Mum, said: “A huge thank you to the National Lottery! It means the world that Rhianna’s swing park will be enjoyed by so many children in her memory. We know that Rhianna would be absolutely delighted that a special park in her name will make such a huge difference to children’s lives.”

Marc Barrow, Trustee of Rhianna’s Swing, said: “As part of Rhianna’s extended family, we were devastated when she passed away. Watching her and her family try to make the most of every precious moment really hit home how important it is for every child to experience fun with loved ones regardless of ability.

“During Rhianna’s illness, my son Kobi realised the lack of facilities with disabled access and decided that he wanted to change this by raising funds to provide facilities for people in wheelchairs. Rhianna’s Swing was born.

“Since then we have held a number of fund raising events from Kobi running Parkrun, 100-mile runs, fundraising dinners, curry nights, a scooter push, Coffee & Cake sales, Marathons, Half Marathons, Triathlons, Freefall Diving, applications for grants, charity walks - you name it we’ve done it, yet we haven’t even reached half way.

“From the inception of the charity, we understood it was going to be a long hard road to complete our dreams of an all-inclusive park at the Gnoll Country Park. With the National Lottery funding you have quite simply made our dreams come true. As chairman of the charity I would like to thank you from the bottom of all our hearts. You have made Rhianna’s memory live on through this park and I’m sure she will be looking down on us all with her cheeky smile we all miss so much.”

Other funded projects include Theatre Versus Oppression who receive £187,478 to provide a series of theatre workshops to people affected by homelessness in Cardiff, and KIM Inspire in Flintshire, who will use £249,903 for a range of activities such as woodcraft, gardening, cookery, music, sport and IT skills for men who are living with mental health problems and/or learning difficulties in Flintshire.

Highlighting the importance of the People and Places programme, Rona Aldrich, Wales Committee Member for the Big Lottery Fund, said: “Programmes like People and Places are making a difference to the lives of so many people in communities across Wales.
 
“It delivers on our promise to use National Lottery funding to regenerate and revitalise communities, tackle disadvantage head on and leave a lasting legacy.”

The People and Places programme awards grants for a broad range of community projects. For further information about the programme and how you can apply for funding, please visit http://www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/fundingfinderwales

Further Information:

Alexander Davies - Big Lottery Fund Press Office: 029 2067 8236
Public Enquiries Line: 0300 123 0735                           Text Relay: 8001+0300 123 0735
Full details of the Big Lottery Fund programmes and grant awards are available at: www.biglotteryfund.org.uk
Follow Big Lottery Fund Wales on Twitter: www.twitter.com/biglotterywales
Find Big Lottery Fund Wales on Facebook: www.facebook.com/biglotteryfundwales

  • The Big Lottery Fund supports the aspirations of people who want to make life better for their communities across the UK. We are responsible for giving out 40% of the money raised by the National Lottery and invest over £650 million a year in projects big and small in health, education, environment and charitable purposes.
  • Since June 2004 we have awarded over £6.5 billion to projects that make a difference to people and communities in need, from early years intervention to commemorative travel funding for World War Two veterans.
  • Since the National Lottery began in 1994, £34 billion has been raised and more than 500,000 grants awarded.
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