A brave sister from Greater Manchester is set to tackle a raft of gruelling challenges to raise money for the hospice that looked after the sister she never met – and she’s taking her best friend along for the ride.
Olivia Hallen, six-years-old, of Swinton, has already completed a 2.5km obstacle course, a Lidl Mudder endurance course, and is 100 metres into a 1,000 swim challenge.
In the coming months she – and best friend Isabella Willis, six-years-old, of Walkden – will also take on a triathlon, a two-mile bike ride, a two-mile walk, a litter pick, reading challenge, bake sale, sponsored bounce and a football shoot-out.
The dedicated pair will also take on more challenges as they tick ones off their list, with the aim of completing 12 challenges in 12 months.
They have one goal in mind – to raise as much money as possible for Derian House Children’s Hospice, the place where Olivia’s sister, Aimee-Leigh died after a brave battle with a brain tumour, aged two.
Olivia said: “We wanted to do it for my sister Aimee-Leigh and for children like her. She is 10 now in heaven. I’m looking forward to the football shoot out because I like football.”
The girls took on their first challenge, Lidl Mudder, the junior version of the UK Tough Mudder that saw them both wade through muddy obstacles in their Derian House T-shirts on 15 July.
Isabella said: “We got all muddy. I jumped in a big muddy puddle and got mud on my face. Mummy had to clean it off. I get happy on every single challenge and I want to do it for Aimee-Leigh.”
Olivia’s mum, Emma Hallen, of Swinton, said: “I feel emotional but incredibly proud of Olivia and Isabella for doing this for Aimee-Leigh. They are both very energetic kids. They are always giving and thinking of other people all the time.”
Emma’s best friend and mum to Isabella, Lucy Willis, is Aimee-Leigh’s godmother and was there for the family throughout the little girl’s illness.
“We thought Aimee-Leigh was getting better, but then we were told that we only had two weeks left with her,” continued Emma.
“We were given options of where we could go. That’s when we chose Derian House. We were given a large family room so we could all stay with her, and people could visit her in a nicer environment, rather than a hospital room. There were a lot of things we could do there that we couldn’t do in hospital. We could bathe her, and it was nice to sit with her in the baby bath – she loved it. We made so many canvasses of her handprints. They just did so much with us.”
When Aimee-Leigh died, she was laid to rest in one of the hospice’s cold rooms – known as a sunflower room – giving her family more time to say goodbye.
“I just lay with her – and her blanket and teddy. It was a massive comfort for me,” Emma continued.
“Derian House was a home for us and gave us the opportunity to make memories with Aimee-Leigh that will live on forever. Lucy and me are so proud that the girls are doing this challenge in Aimee’s memory.”
Ann-Marie Fishwick, Community Fundraiser at Derian House, said: “I think Aimee-Leigh would be incredibly proud of little superstars Olivia and Isabella – they are very brave to take on so many challenges to raise money for families just like theirs.
“While it is free for families, it will cost £6million to run services at Derian House in 2023, and so we rely heavily on our supporters – like Olivia and Isabella – to raise 70p in every £1.”
Help Olivia and Isabella reach their target for Derian House: https://www.gofundme.com/f/olivia-bellas-12-month-challenge-for-derian
Based in Chorley, the hospice cares for more than 400 babies, children, young people and their families from across the North West and is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Find out more: https://www.derianhouse.co.uk