• 19-year-old Leo was supposed to be walking mum Vicky down the aisle in April, but the Coronavirus pandemic meant the wedding was cancelled.
• Instead, Leo has decided to walk the length of the British Isles to raise money for the charity which helps him and his family.
• But Leo (who has health problems caused by his condition Williams Syndrome) needs help from his friends to walk more than 1,000 miles for Derian House Children’s Hospice and reach his fundraising goal!
ONCE you have met Leo Cliffe, you’ll never forget him.
The larger-than-life 19-year-old has a huge grin and a knack of making those around him fall hopelessly for his endearing charm.
Staff at Derian House Children’s Hospice – where Leo comes for respite stays – talk of his ability to light up a room and say it’s no wonder he has a gaggle of celebrity friends who happily pose for photographs with him.
Now bubbly Leo is using his popularity to raise money for the charity that has helped him and mum Vicky so much over the years, by undertaking his biggest challenge yet – a walk of more than 1,000 miles on his home treadmill!
The idea came about after Leo was supposed to walk mum Vicky Cliffe, 43, down the aisle in April at her wedding to stepdad Scott Carty, 43.
The coronavirus pandemic meant the wedding had to be cancelled. But undeterred, Leo decided that he would swap his walk down the aisle for a walk across the British Isles to raise money for Derian House Children’s Hospice.
But at more than 1,175 miles, Leo cannot do it alone. He is calling on his friends to help him out and take some of the miles off his total – and for every mile people walk, jog or cycle, he wants then to donate £1 to his JustGiving page.
Leo said: “I’m really looking forward to raising money for Derian because the hospice holds a special place in my heart.”
Mick Croskery, who runs the community fundraising team at Derian House Children’s Hospice, said: “It’s just amazing to see Leo helping us out during such a tough time. The fact that he is giving back to Derian House by taking part in some fundraising for us has given all the staff a huge boost and a feeling of appreciation for the services we provide to him and his family.
“I know Leo will have me personally clocking up the miles to help him out and I can’t wait as I’d do anything to help such a wonderful kind-hearted young man… now where’s my shoes? “
Derian House Children’s Hospice looks after more than 400 children and young people with life-limiting conditions, from across the North West. It costs £4.8 million to run the hospice for a year, with just 7p of every pound coming from government funding. For the rest the charity has to rely on donations.
Coronavirus has meant that the charity’s spring and summer fundraising events have had to be cancelled, and its charity shops have had to close. This will lead to a loss of more than £250,000 income – money that was being relied upon to offer care to children and their families.
Now the charity is asking its supporters if they can “do it for Derian” during lockdown and take part in creative fundraising events to raise money to help bridge the gap and ensure it can look after its families now during the coronavirus pandemic, and in the future.
Visit www.derianhouse.co.uk/derian-events/doitforderian to find out how you could get involved.
Visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/leo-cliffe to hear from Leo about his Aisle to Isle fundraising challenge.
FRIDAY, April 3 was supposed to be the happiest day of Vicky Cliffe’s life.
Her son Leo, 19, was due to walk her down the aisle and she would be married to her fiancé Scott Carty in a fairy tale wedding. It would be perfect.
The day would have been made all the more poignant for the fact that just five years earlier Vicky had been told that her beloved Leo was unlikely to make it to his 16th birthday.
Leo was born with a rare congenital disorder called Williams Syndrome, which affects around one in every 20,000 people in the UK.
Although the condition has given Leo some extraordinary gifts – he is incredibly friendly, funny and has a flair for music – it has also led to heart and kidney failure, and Leo has had more than 50 operations since he was born.
In October 2015, when Leo was 15-years-old, Vicky was told by doctors that Leo was unlikely to make his next birthday.
The news left the family devastated and they set about making Leo’s wishes come true with the time they had left. It was around this time that Scott, an old school friend, got in touch with Vicky and love blossomed.
Six months later, hope came in the form of the offer of pioneering new surgery and finally on 14 March, 2017 – Vicky’s 40th birthday – Leo was admitted to Great Ormond Street Hospital in London for a double kidney autotransplant (which involves moving the patient’s own kidneys to a different part of the body).
The nine-hour operation was a success and Vicky’s relief was huge.
But just days later, Leo developed complication. He was rushed back into theatre and in just five days underwent three major life-saving surgeries.
Bouts of pneumonia and a collapsed lung followed. But finally, after a gruelling eight weeks in hospital, Leo was well enough to come home.
“It was a tough time, especially being so far away from home down in London,” said Vicky.
“But my family and friends were amazing. They’re like a tag team and I always had someone with me helping and supporting me when we needed them. We’re very lucky.”
Leo went on to suffer more health complications and needed open heart bypass surgery and several more life-saving procedures.
And in September 2018, during a family holiday to Florida at the Give Kids the World Village – a non-profit resort that offers free breaks to children with critical illnesses with their families – Leo made his final wish.
“Each of the youngsters on the break were granted one wish,” said Vicky.
“They were told they could write it out and it goes onto the ceiling in the Castle of Miracles in the resort – there’s 120,000 children’s wishes up there. Leo wrote on his wish that he wanted me and Scott to get married.
“On the last day of the holiday we went to visit the castle one last time and I asked Leo ‘Would you like your wish to come true?’ He nodded and so I got down on one knee right there and asked Scott to marry me and he said yes!
“Scott has been our rock,” added Vicky.
“He took us both on knowing what the future held and has stood by us every step of the way and supported me through my darkest days of Leo being on life support.
“I would have been so proud to have Leo walk me down the aisle. Although Leo’s condition remains life-limiting, he is here, and there’s nothing more I want in the world than to have him at my side while I marry my soul-mate.”
The wedding will now take place in October, 2020.