Toby’s Magical Journey
Toby’s Magical Journey is a registered charity in Cupar which supports children who have been diagnosed with cancer. We caught up with one of the charity’s trustees, Alison Etheridge – Toby’s Mum – to discover more …
It was Friday 12 December 2014 when Toby – aged nine – was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. For the next two years, he campaigned to help others – raising more than £20,000 for Clic Sargent. When he turned 11, he told his parents that he wanted to have his own charity. When asked why, Toby told them he wanted to see where and how the monies he was helping to raise would be spent.
Alison says: “Toby’s vision then – as now – is to help local children and young people across Scotland on their cancer journey. His drive and determination is to beat cancer – and to show others like him that life living with cancer is not all doom and gloom.”
The charity launched in late 2016. In 2018, with lottery funding support, it moved from their home into their current premises. That’s where we met with Alison – at their ‘drop-in’ at 126 Bonnygate to record our latest CuparNow podcast. You can listen via this link or by clicking on the image below.
The drop-in centre is also a small shop selling all kinds of gifts – the sale of which provide “bread and butter” for the charity. Sitting in the activity room, Alison explains that it is used for oncology family gatherings and children’s fun time “where they can feel normal and mix“. So much of their work is about conveying that ‘normality’ – removing the taboos and uncertainty associated with cancer diagnoses and treatments.
Alison explains their work saying: “The support we provide can be practical, financial or emotional.” The charity arranges family holidays, days out and grants wishes & dreams. She adds: “We are also visible within the Edinburgh Hospital for Young Children’s oncology ward and day care where we provide Toby’s Treasure Boxes filled with toys for those aged nought to 25.”
In our conversation, Alison explains the ups and downs of their “rollercoaster” – and of her life and work before the charity. The years since Toby’s diagnosis have been all consuming and understandably so, but they have also been the most rewarding: “All the way through his treatment, Toby showed us all to stay positive. He took the harsh treatment, he fundraised … he smiled.” Today, Toby is three years in remission and – having turned 16 this summer – is now a Trustee of his own charity.
The biggest challenge? Without doubt is fund raising. Alison explains that they are national lottery funded for the charity’s overheads – through until next year: “We are all volunteers – seven trustees, three ambassadors and a total of 20 volunteers in the team. There are no staff costs. But we are always looking for money, for cash, for support in kind … whatever we can get to help the charity’s work and to support those who have been in our position.”
Alison is very proud of Toby. “Watching my son become cancer free and seeing him win Kingdom FM Child of achievement award and Charity of the Year is very special.”
Community support …
Because the charity receives lottery funding, the premises are also available for wider community use and benefit.
Alison explains: “A lovely lady named Liz Laing came to chat with us. She had a vision to set up a community club “Scoot about Toon” for those at home alone or those who wanted to get out, meet new friends or to reconnect with lost friends and have a giggle!” The first gathering has been held and was deemed a great success … “there was laughter, new friendships formed, a raffle and planning of what they would like at their October Halloween gathering.”
CuparNow, through our community fund, are happy to support this unique project and will be funding the group’s teas, coffees and refreshments through until the Spring.
And as with all our interviewees, we asked Alison what she would recommend to anyone visiting Cupar for the first time – or for the first time in a long time: “Ally at 1B Westport serves fantastic coffee and food! Enjoy a walk through the town seeing the different shops followed by a visit to National Trust of Scotland’s Hill of Tarvit Mansion House and Gardens.”
Can you help?
The charity is always looking for help. Are you someone who could run a fund raising event with friends and family?
Do you run a company and would like to provide in-kind support or more?
Do you run a self catering property nearby and would you be able to provide an off peak break to be enjoyed by one of the families being helped by the charity?
Whatever you can do – please get in touch. You can email Alison via this link or call 01334 796000 … or drop in when you’re next passing them on Bonnygate.
Follow them … the charity is on Facebook and they also have a Group page for the drop-in centre (@126 Bonnygate, Fife’s First Childhood Cancer Drop in Centre). You can also follow them on Instagram and Twitter.
Thanks for reading!