Halifax charity founder gets invitation to meet The Queen

Sarah Thompson, Simon Widdop and Rachael Hawkins, from Yorkshire Children's Trust, celebrating Simon's invite to see the Queen
Sarah Thompson, Simon Widdop and Rachael Hawkins, from Yorkshire Children's Trust, celebrating Simon's invite to see the Queen

The founder of a Halifax children’s charity is to meet the Queen at Windsor Castle on Tuesday in recognition of his charity’s work.

Simon Widdop, from Illingworth, runs the Yorkshire Children’s Trust (YCT), based on Commercial Street.

Simon's invite to see the Queen

Simon's invite to see the Queen

The charity was founded after Simon’s daughter Leigh-Anne got cancer when she was five-years-old and spent a full year in hospital.

Explaining the origins of the YCT, Simon said: “Leigh-Anne was always a poorly baby. She was born with a broken hip and had a lot of infections.

“When she was five her tummy became distended and she developed spots all over her body.

“We took her to the doctors and were told to go to hospital urgently, where she was kept in and they did some blood tests.

“My wife Dawn and I didn’t know what was going on. Then Leigh-Anne was transferred to the cancer ward at Jimmy’s in Leeds.

“We just didn’t know what to think. It just hit us like a brick.

“I thought she was going to die.”

After reacting badly to chemotherapy, Leigh-Anne, who is now 18, fell into intensive care and was put into a coma.

“At one stage we were told to gather all our family together because it was thought she wouldn’t make it through the night.

“Somehow she managed to do that, but she couldn’t go back on her previous treatment, and had to have a bone marrow transplant.

“Family check and worldwide checks for matches came back negative, but a match was found using stem cells, and after a year in hospital, we got our own little Christmas miracle when she was allowed out on the Christmas Eve.”

The Trust helps families who have children going through long term illnesses or have life long disabilities.

“I was shocked - and that is a total understatement!” said Simon about his invitation, with the YCT one of only 200 chosen from across the country to attend.

“I just stared at the invitation for about five minutes. I couldn’t take in what I was seeing.

“I’m nervous but excited at the same time.”

Simon reckons the charity, which receives no government or lottery funding, helps around 100 families every year.

“It can be a struggle to be heard above the big charities that are out there because we don’t have their big budgets, so it’s nice to get this recognition from The Queen.”