This is Lee and Lorraine Lewis. In 2010, Lee’s mum Janice Lewis was diagnosed with cancer. The hospital became their life for the next 4 years. During this time life threw many challenges. In 2012 Lee's Nan passed away in April, then 6 months later Lee’s Dad, Chris Lewis passed away suddenly following a heart attack. In February 2013, their new build home completely flooded due to the builders fitting an incorrect pipe. They lost everything and had to live in a hotel for 3 months whilst their house was rebuilt. They were as they would describe at “rock bottom”. They never fully appreciated the realities of cancer and supporting the family member because Chris had shielded them from that. However, when the 2 of them took over his role, they learnt how tough it was financially, physically and emotionally. This was not only for the person with cancer but their families, Losing everything put their life into perspective and they thought what could they do to make life a little bit easier for people in hospital and try and make people happy.
Initially, Lorraine decided she wanted to raise money to fund the 11 TV and DVD players for the private rooms on Talbot Butler ward in Northampton General Hospital, where Lee's mum had been in and out of for 4 years. It costs £10 a day or £35 a week to watch TV, which people would pay but no one could really afford. So, over a 2 year period Lorraine did Tough Mudder and Rat Race Dirty Weekend (20 miles, 200 obstacles), something completely out of her comfort zone. She had to do it, as she knew it would make a difference. Plus, they were getting fed up of bringing their own 32 inch TV in and out of the hospital. Lorraine achieved that and then they both thought what they could do on a long term basis.
When Lorraine and Lee would visit Janice in hospital they would bring in items for patients or run down to the shop for patients to grab items they needed like magazines, toiletries etc. That was when they came up with the idea of giving free gift packs to people in hospital, so they could have items they loved without having to worry about paying for it. Then they could spend time with people so they didn't feel lonely and they could take people's mind off thinking about cancer. So, they decided to set up a charity that did just that. In April 2016 The Lewis Foundation was born. They initially started off with giving 80 gift packs a month to one ward with a choice of 8 gifts to Talbot Butler Ward in Northampton General Hospital. However, the demand for the gift packs grew. They then covered day patients in Northampton General Hospital. From there, they now also supply gift packs to BMI Three Shires, Northampton, Kettering General Hospital and Milton Keynes University Hospital Trust. They now provide 1000 free gift packs a month to cancer patients and have a selection of 27 gift packs available.
Since they began, they have given out:
2016 - 657
2017 - 3325
2018 – They will have given out by the end of the year - 10,080!
The brilliant thing about this charity, is it has brought their community together. People are getting involved in whatever way they can to help them whether it is fundraising, holding collection drives for items or gift packing. The Lewis Foundation relies on good will, which is people helping in whatever they can. It is the only way it works as we all work full time and are giving up our spare time to do this. Patients who have received the packs and their families are now involved with the charity and are helping The Lewis Foundation to help others. For the recipients they have said helping gives them something to do at a time they no longer work and they want to help cheer up others that are experiencing what they have. It has helped with patient care in hospitals, at a time when the NHS is stretched.
Lee's mum is now in remission. Through the toughest 4 years of their life, they identified a need and created something positive. IF you want to follow them and see what they are up to, you can find them on facebook here.
Actively Giving will be supporting the Lewis Foundation through our Christmas challenge. The money donated will help to provide Christmas gifts for those suffering in hospital over the Christmas period.