Youngsters have a ball at party in their honour

Picture: Franca Perletti

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THE guest list may have included Stormtroopers, Daleks, Mickey Mouse and Snow White, but the real stars of the party were the 120 children who have recovered – or are battling – life-threatening illnesses.

In its 10th year, the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party was held yesterday for children who are current and former patients at St Mary’s Hospital, Milton, and Southampton General Hospital.

One of those enjoying yesterday’s entertainment was Christal Miller, who has beaten cancer.

Two years ago doctors discovered a massive tumour on her chest.

She was diagnosed with a rare cancer called Ewings and underwent gruelling chemotherapy for 18 months.

Christal surprised medics by surviving a six-hour operation – in which she lost eight pints of blood – with surgeons removing a tumour the size of a melon between her heart and lungs.

Christal is now in remission and is slowly starting to recover.

The 12-year-old said: ‘When I was told by doctors that I had this tumour, it was very traumatic and I was very scared.

‘It was really difficult at first, but now I feel so much better. I can do so many more sports, I feel healthier and I can be more active.’

She added: ‘I loved the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, and my favourite part was getting to see all the animals they had there.

‘My favourite characters to see were Hello Kitty and Captain Jack Sparrow.’

The party was held at the Marriott Hotel, in Southampton Road, Cosham, with entertainment including a magician, a clown, competitions and a disco.

There was also a mobile zoo which had snakes, meerkats and lizards which the children could handle.

The News’s Chipper went to the party along with football legend Linvoy Primus and TV presenter Fred Dinenage.

Christal’s mum, Lisa Miller, 41, of Shelley Avenue, Paulsgrove, said: ‘These parties are fantastic and they help both the children and the family a lot.

‘Last year her treatment had just come to the end, she had undergone chemotherapy for 18 months.

‘You can’t imagine how bad it is for Christal and the family when she was having her treatment.

‘So that’s why we’re so grateful to come to this party because it really is fantastic.’

Lord Mayor Councillor Paula Riches also attended the party to show her support.

Cllr Riches said: ‘There is so much effort that goes into organising this, it is just marvellous. But it’s worth it when you see children smiling.’

THE organiser of the party, held for children who have been affected by long-term illness, praised the efforts of everyone involved.

Malcolm Drew, 47, from North End, has been organising the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party for 10 years.

He said: ‘My daughter had leukaemia and her treatment was in Southampton.

‘Each year they would hold a Christmas party but not all of the kids could go and so I decided I would host a party in Portsmouth after Christmas for these poorly children.

‘Since then it has just grown. It is hard work to organise but it’s all worthwhile when you see the look on the children’s faces.

‘All the volunteers are fantastic and I would like to thank them for their help.’

This year families were also being offered a free stay in a holiday home in the New Forest.

Pam Marshall, 41, set up Hannah’s Holiday Homes Appeal in 2004, in memory of her daughter Hannah Westbrook, who died of Hodgkin’s disease.

Pam said: ‘Hannah loved going on holiday, and after she passed away we bought this home in the New Forest.

‘So I was offering families a free break as it means so much to the children.’