AN INCREDIBLE girl who set up her own charity to help people less fortunate than herself has raised £15,000 in just three years.
Eleven-year-old Jessica Ridge has held garden fetes, sponsored walks, bingo nights, auctions, fashion shows and even a rodeo for Cancer Research UK, the Make a Wish Foundation, Parkinsons UK and Naomi House Hospice.
It all began in 2009 when, aged eight, the Purbrook Park School pupil was moved by stories of the late reality television star Jade Goody’s cancer battle.
She asked her mum Lara if she could hold a charity barbecue in the garden of their home in Green Lane, Hambledon, and enlisted the help of neighbour, TV presenter Fred Dinenage.
It snowballed from there and hundreds of people have been involved with her charity A Touch of Magic.
Somehow the bright youngster manages to fit the fundraising work in between dancing, acting and acrobat lessons.
She said: ‘We watched a programme about a lady who had cancer and my mum explained to me what it was and we decided to do a barbecue to raise money for people who have it.
‘Everyone got involved and it ended up being a big event. Lots of different groups of people support me.
‘We’ve done lots of events but my favourite was the fashion show at Admiral Lord Nelson School for the Make a Wish Foundation.
‘I feel pleased that I’ve been able to help people.’
Proud Lara supports her daughter’s efforts and is even doing an abseil down the Spinnaker Tower in July for the charity.
The 42-year-old, who runs a construction company with Jessica’s dad, Russell, 47, said: ‘We were listening to a Jade Goody story on a news bulletin when Jessica suddenly said “Why can’t we cure it?”.
‘She wanted to raise some money to send to the doctors to make Jade better. We said we’d do the barbecue and Race for Life too and go from there. We ended up with 250 people in our garden.’
Pompey’s mascot Nelson also attended.
‘My husband thought that would be the end of it but it wasn’t. Jessica’s attitude was that she was going to fix the world’s problems one at a time so she’s kept on going ever since.’
In the first year £2,500 was donated to Cancer Research but when a family friend was diagnosed with Parkinsons Jessica raised £6,090 for Parkinsons UK.
She set up an umbrella charity which can be attached to an established charity for a year and uses the same charity number. It wasn’t hard to find a name.
She said: ‘My grandad told me it was magic how much money we raised and we came up with the idea ‘Touch someone’s world with a Touch of Magic.’
Jessica will present a cheque for £6,900 to the Make a Wish Foundation at The Chairmakers, Denmead, on May 9 where she will be joined by Fred Dinenage.
So far this year she has raised £1,200 for Naomi House Children’s Hospice.
Celebrities including Richard Briers, Lily Allen, Mohamed Al Fayed, Amanda Holden and Bruce Forsyth have donated items to be auctioned.