Instead of throwing a party, Lewis Kenny will mark his birthday by marching almost 40 miles for Derian House, the hospice that cared for the older brother he never met.
Lewis, who turns 21 on Wednesday (10 August), will walk from his home in Worsley, Salford, to Blackpool Tower on Saturday (13 August) in memory of his brother Daniel Strickland who passed away aged 12 after a brave battle against a brain tumour.
He will be joined by a group of close friends and followed by his dad Liam, who will drive a mini bus filled with refreshments that will be ready to drive the group home at the end of the walk.
So far, Lewis has raised just over £2,000 for Derian House Children’s Hospice in Chorley, where his brother spent the last 18 months of his short life.
Lewis, a Resident Welfare Officer at Mears Group, said: “I grew up aware of Dan, I’ve been told a lot of stories about him and I’ve always asked a lot of questions but I never had the chance to meet him.
“Derian did a lot for our family. I idolise Dan and I idolise the staff at Derian for what they did for him.
“My dad did a lot of fundraising after we lost Dan and I want to continue the trend. This walk is our way of thanking everyone at Derian for what they did and the memories they helped my family make with Dan.
“I also want to keep Dan’s name alive. I suppose it’s my way of having a relationship with him – the relationship I never had.
“I’ll be with a group of people I love and some who knew Dan, some who didn’t. I’ve been training and I’m confident I’ll get it done – I’m buzzing for it. But I’m not looking forward to the blisters!
“I have devoted everything to this – Derian is only here thanks to the people who keep the charity alive. And I don’t think this is the end – hopefully I’ll continue the fundraising that my dad started. Who knows, maybe I’ll be doing something even bigger next year!”
Lewis’s dad and Daniel’s step-dad, Liam Kenny, spent time at Derian House during Daniel’s illness. Since then he has taken part in a number of marathons, including in London and New York, to raise money for the charities that cared for Daniel.
Liam, a Rail Safety Engineer at Volker Rail, said: “Dan first became ill aged 10 and he had an operation that removed 98% of a brain tumour. We thought he would be okay after that but I remember I took him to a football match and he slept all the way through it – not like him at all – and I knew something still wasn’t right.
“I was against the idea of a hospice at first if I’m honest, I imagined a hospital ward. I think I was also a bit in denial about what was going to happen.
“We stayed in a family flat at Derian House and it was not at all what I expected – I never thought I’d see so many happy people having fun. Dan didn’t understand what was happening at the time but he was happy enough, sometimes grumpy. He was in the hydrotherapy pool every night! The nurses at Derian cared for him unbelievably. They even let his Cocker Spaniel, Badger the dog, stay with him at the hospice.
“The memories that me and Daniel’s mum, Angela, made with him – we wouldn’t have them without Derian.
Derian House provides respite and end-of-life care to more than 450 children and young people across the North West. Care is free to families, but the charity must raise £5.7million each year to continue running.
Kerry Pritchard, Community Fundraiser at Derian House Children’s Hospice, said: “We’re so happy Derian was able to be there for Daniel’s family when they needed it.
“We’re grateful that Lewis has decided to mark his birthday by doing something to help other families in need – we wish him lots of luck on his walk!
“It’s only thanks to the generous donations of our supporters, like Lewis, that we are able to do what we do.”