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We’re always struck by the many kind and generous ways people support Children’s Cancer North, and especially the children and young people that receive treatment every year at Wards 4 and 14 of the Great North Children’s Hospital in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Earlier this month we received a call from 85-year-old Eileen Athey from Killingworth in North Tyneside about a special visit she was making to the Great North Children’s Hospital. Eileen is well known to staff and families because over the past six years, she has donated hundreds of presents, gifts, and toys to the children on the cancer wards.

Raising awareness of Children’s Cancer North


Eileen was keen to meet with us because she wants to help raise awareness of Children’s Cancer North, and the many ways people can raise money for our charity. Because we work so closely with staff at the Great North Children’s Hospital, we’re able to make sure funding goes where it’s needed most.

Thanks to the fundraising efforts of members of the public and local businesses, we’ve been able to deliver experiences that make a real difference to children and families affected by childhood cancer; including one-to-one animation classes, music therapy, and play sessions. These experiences have been really well received and we want to deliver more.

Eileen wants to be an ambassador for Children’s Cancer North and inspire more people to raise money for our charity. A cancer survivor herself, Eileen wanted to give something back after her treatment for breast cancer, and because, in her own words, “I want to make people smile.”

“I knew if I had experienced a very a difficult time during treatment, it would be the same for the children. I wanted to spoil the families and make the children feel happy.” Eileen Athey.

Eileen donates presents and gifts twice a year, once at Easter and once at Christmas. She starts buying gifts for Easter in January and again in the summer for Christmas. Last Christmas, staff at Home Bargains in Killingworth were keen to find out why she was buying so many presents.

“Some of the staff at Home Bargains used to joke about how many presents I was buying so I told them who they were for,” said Eileen. “The manager and the staff at the Killingworth store all took part in a secret Santa, donating toys for the cancer wards at Great North Children’s Hospital instead of buying gifts for each other.

“They also raised £80 to help purchase toys and clothing this Easter too.” Claire and Nicola, both staff at Home Bargains, Killingworth are pictured above. Nicola and Claire helped to deliver the Easter toys and organise staff collections in store.

Eileen often receives letters of thanks from parents and guardians.

“I often get cards and thank you letters from families. When the children get older, I want parents to remember how well they were looked after. And I hope they keep some of the toys for the rest of their lives.”

This Easter, Eileen donated lots of Peter Rabbit-themed gifts, including dressing up outfits, books, drinking cups, and games. She also gifted a Peppa Pig band set and some bunting to decorate the ward.

“Not enough people smile these days, and I want people to be happy. I didn’t start donating to receive any recognition or praise; it’s an honour to do it.” Eileen Athey.

How you can support Children’s Cancer North


If you’d like to support the work of Children’s Cancer North, please contact us to find out how you can fundraise and help make life better for children with cancer. By working in partnership with us, we can direct your generous donation to where it’s needed most.

You can also help us fund revolutionary research at Newcastle University, provide support for children and their families on the children’s cancer wards, and raise awareness of childhood cancer throughout the North East and Cumbria.

To contact us, please email or call 0191 208 2243.

On behalf of everyone at Children’s Cancer North and the Great North Children’s Hospital, we’d like to say a huge thank you to Eileen. You’ve definitely made everyone smile!

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