A thankful Halifax dad has raised thousands for Sheffield Children’s Hospital with a Christmas twist after its medics save his son’s life.
Andy Williams, originally from Woodseats, wanted to give something back after his son William was diagnosed with Leukemia aged just 21 months.
He collects Christmas trees after the festivities are over for chipping and asks for donations to the Sheffield Children's Hospital Charity in return - he's raised over £27,000 in total.
Andy's brave little boy had to endure gruelling bouts of chemotherapy everyday for nearly four years which included 27 trips to theatre to administer treatment into his spinal cord and brain fluid.
William has been off chemo now for almost four years and is now eight and healthy - and just like any boy his age. He loves his football and cars. He's very bright, doing so well at school.
But Andy along with wife Michelle can remember the start of the hellish journey and recalls the day when he first noticed William take a turn for the worst.
"I was doing the childcare and noticed he started being sick in the mornings," Andy said.
"We thought it was a virus. Our GP told us to come back in a few days. But while I was at work one day, his grandparents who were looking after him rang to say he had gone blue and they rushed him to the Children’s. He was Leukaemia diagnosed. We didn’t go home for two weeks.
"I can only the describe the feeling when they tell you the news is it's the worst day of your life."
"But throughout, he was a superstar - our little boy never complained once despite the constant treatments.
"He was very, very poorly and there were two or three times it where he might not have been with us today.
Caring for an ill child throughout their treatment isn't easy - although he didn't expect to be up at all hours cooking food.
"One of the worst parts was when they had William on steroids - they told us he would turn into a little buddha to which he did. He ballooned in size and the drugs made him hungry all the time.
"I was up cooking sausages at 3am because he was so hungry - he'd have a plate of them. The hospital staff told us to give him what he wants - he turned into some sort of eating machine. Thank goodness for 24 hours supermarkets."
Reflecting on the time hellish journey, Andy paid tribute to the countless healthcare professionals who treated William.
"I've often been asked what I think of the people who helped William to make him better and I'm often lost for words. You can't describe how wonderful they are.
"Nothing was ever too much to ask, we'd come at at 2am and the staff would be right on it. They're incredible."
Andy wanted to give something back and continue the effort every year. He didn't chose the conventional marathon or bake sale to do it.
"All this is thanks to the incredible treatment and care he got at Sheffield Children's Hospital. We decided we wanted to give back to the hospital but couldn’t think of a way.
“It was October, Christmas was coming up and a cousin of mine suggested we could think about recycling Christmas trees after Twelflth Night.”
In the first year, Andy and a team of volunteers raised £1000 after setting up through Facebook and getting help of the hospital charity to promote it.
But word has spread and demand has soared. Last year the project raised £10,500.
Andy has to hire vans, enlist a team of volunteer collectors, get on the road collecting for up to seven days to get to everyone, store and then chip all the trees collected into mulch. He then gives the chippings away.
This year Sheffield Council has provided a free work unit for three weeks to store the trees in, and the team from epiGenesys at Sheffield University have built the campaign a new website for free.
This year he’s expecting even higher demand, and is appealing for donations of more vans and more people.
Some people are incredibly generous - last year Andy was given an anonymous donation of £1000 for taking someone’s tree
Andy, now of Halifax added: “It’s grown and grown. We never thought we would raise such a huge amount of money, we have a lot of people and businesses who use the service year after year and we’re really grateful for them to continuing to support the campaign.
"We work really hard in the cold and dark after Christmas, but it’s also a lot of fun and we’re really proud that it’s doing so much for the hospital. It’s the least we can do to say thank you for looking after William, and all the other children at the hospital.”