Mad Hatters party cheers brave kids

BRAVE children gathered for a star-studded bash to mark their courageous battles against serious illnesses.

Pompey footballer Lomana Lualua, as well as TV personalities Esther Rantzen and Fred Dineage, brought smiles to the faces of up to 200 youngsters at the Marriott Hotel in Portsmouth yesterday.

One of the special guests to the 'Mad Hatter's Party' was two-year-old Louisa 'Lou Lou' Grice.

At just a few months old she was diagnosed with leukaemia and went through a year of chemotherapy.

But now the toddler, as well as her family, have a huge reason to celebrate as she is in remission.

Her father, Colin Grice, of Fitzwilliam Avenue, Fareham, said: 'It's a testament to her strength that she got through it, and fingers crossed she is out of the woods.

'The party has been a bit of a celebration for us. It has been a really tough time but the hospital have been wonderful. Then to be invited along to something like this is superb.

'It's still difficult because we are anxious every time she gets a cold but we are feeling really positive.'

The idea for the Mad Hatter's Party came from Malcolm Drew after his daughter Jenny was ill with leukaemia.

After she made a full recovery, Mr Drew wanted to organise a party for other children from the Portsmouth area who bravely fought cancer and other illnesses.

Through the parties he has been able to fund-raise for vital equipment for the children's wards at Southampton General Hospital and Portsmouth's St Mary's Hospital.

They have also organised a host of trips for seriously ill children with a particular wishes, such visiting Marwell Zoo and Portsmouth FC.

Mr Drew said: 'It makes it all worthwhile when you see them all enjoying themselves. I'm a great believer that feeling positive helps to battle illness. That's what it's all about.'

He pointed out the special events can also give families memories to cherish during difficult times.

'It's devastating, but there are children who come to this party every year and they are not here the following year,' he added.


Kira Meldrum has a huge reason to celebrate after she had a successful bone marrow transplant to cure the leukaemia.

The seven-year-old, of Dover Close, Stubbington, returned home in August after undergoing her bone marrow transplant at Bristol Children's Hospital.

Her parents said the party was a great reason to celebrate after the four-year battle against the condition.

Her father, James Meldrum, 30, said: 'She was diagnosed in October 2002. She finished her treatment but then she relapsed so it has been a really difficult time.

'This party is great because there are other children who have gone through the same as her.'

Her proud mother Carrie Keir, 33, said: 'I think this party is great because it's something to take your mind off going to hospital and having treatment. They get to have a bit of fun.'


Mia Marner's parents thought their little girl had bad eyesight when they noticed her squinting when she was 18 months old.

But it turned out to be far worse.

She had tumours behind both her eyes and she had to start a gruelling course of chemotherapy.

Now smiling Mia is four-years-old and her father Paul, 30, a marine electrician, is over the moon now she has been in remission for two years.

He said: 'We noticed she had a squint in one eye so we thought she had a lazy eye or trouble with her eyesight. It didn't disappear so we had it checked out and she had tumours behind both her eyes.'

Her parents are just hoping her eyesight will recover from the scars left behind her eyes.

'To watch your own daughter go through cancer is just terrible,' said Mr Marner, of Moorland Road, Fratton.


Harry Embling's cancer was so bad it took over his whole body and he has the scars to show what a fight he faced.

The nine-year-old had cancer of the kidney which then spread to his liver and up to his heart.

He needed a 10-hour operation in 2004, during which Harry's heart stopped.

This was followed by a course of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Now he is in remission and his delighted mother Wendy, 37, of Privett Road, Gosport, said: 'He's amazing. He's done absolutely brilliantly and now he's back to his normal, cheeky self.'

He has been in remission for just over a year and still needs check ups every three months at the Piam Brown ward in Southampton General Hospital.

'He's a real fighter and I'm very proud of him.

'He has been very brave.'


At the age when most children do little but sleep and play little Louisa Grice had to battle cancer that had taken hold of her tiny body.

The little girl, known as Lou Lou, had acute myeloid leukaemia and was diagnosed when she was less than a year old.

The cancer usually just affects the blood, with no outward signs. But the youngster had a lump behind her ear that first alerted her parents to the disease.

It was fortunate that they spotted the cancer early, meaning a high dose of chemotherapy helped to wipe it out.

She had a year of treatment, including two courses of chemotherapy but thankfully she responded well and is now in remission.

Her father Colin Grice, 43, of Fitzwilliam Avenue, Hill Head, said he is just keeping his fingers crossed.

'We have been told that if she turns five she is considered cured.'


Success story Holly Stewart is fighting fit and celebrating seven years of being free from cancer.

The nine-year-old from Nelson Avenue, Portsmouth, had a tumour at the base of her spine when she was just two years old.

She had five months of chemotherapy and an operation to remove the bone.

Her parents are now over the moon she has gone on to make a full recovery.

Mum Lorraine Stewart, 41, who has one other daughter, said: 'As she gets older she is understanding more about what she has had and she is quite happy to talk to people about it now that she has started to come to terms with it.'

She said she is very proud of her daughter, who is now so healthy and strong she completed the junior Great South Run last year.

Holly said she really enjoyed the Mad Hatter's Party.


David Udall's parents first realised something was wrong when he started suffering from terrible headaches in 2003.

His parents were devastated to be told the six-year-old had a large tumour in his throat. He was started on chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Fortunately he responded well and now, aged nine, is in remission.

Brave David, of Oaklands Road, Petersfield, said: 'I remember having to stay in bed all day but I'm starting to forget how horrible it was.'

His mother, Alison, who has three other children, said they never lost faith that David was going to be fine.

'We don't think it's going to come back,' she said. 'I think it's sorted out.'

David still needs regular growth hormone injections because his treatment stopped him growing at the normal rate, but other than that he is back to full health.