Nick Ferrari supports help for sick children

Parents of terminally ill youngsters and the volunteers who work with them were among 900 guests at the fourth Camp Simcha gala dinner in London on Monday.

The dinner raised £1 million-plus to enable the charity to continue helping Jewish families across the community to cope with children with cancer, leukaemia and other life-threatening conditions.

Started 15 years ago to help 13 families, Camp Simcha now "reaches" 2,000 children, including siblings, offering practical and emotional support. It receives no state funding.

There is a Camp Simcha house in Hendon and volunteers in Manchester, Gateshead and other major cities. Those assisted are also matched with Camp Simcha big brothers and sisters.

Among the latter are Eliza Noe, whose "little sister" served as her bridesmaid. She travels to Oxford every week with her husband to support a teenage boy with cancer and his sister. "We go to the cinema, on bowling trips and just are there as friends," she said. "They become part of the family. It's a connection for life."

Fellow volunteer Shauli Adler, 21, took his "little brother" out for his birthday last week. "We got him a cake and pizza and made loads of noise," he said. "He told me it was his best night ever. He doesn't get to be with people his own age, so I'm there."

Mr Adler once spent a night in hospital with him so the boy's exhausted mother could get some rest. "She phoned me the next day and said it was the first night she had slept in a week."

Celia Patterson from Wandsworth described the big brothers and sisters as "a life-saver" and that her family looked forward to the annual Keshet retreat for Camp Simcha families.

Her son Oscar has a degenerative brain condition, while her other son is autistic. "When you have a disabled kid you can't do normal things," she said. "Oscar gets few play-dates, people are very frightened of his condition. Most of his life is hospitals or blood tests. Camp Simcha gives him something to smile about."

Jill and Jonathan Prawer, whose 10-year-old David was diagnosed as a toddler with a spreading brain tumour, were desperate for help when they found Camp Simcha.

Mrs Prawer was particularly grateful to the charity for taking David to an American summer camp every summer. "It's attention for him and it gives us a chance to spend time with our two daughters. It's especially hard for our eldest because she remembers a 'before'. What Camp Simcha does is like compensation for what she has been through."

Among the dinner guests were couples who had travelled from Manchester. Pearl Lopian, Camp Simcha's family liaison officer for Manchester and Gateshead, said northern demand was increasing. "Manchester supporters wanted to go to the dinner to meet the people who run the show because they strongly want to be more a part of Camp Simcha." LBC broadcaster Nick Ferrari told diners: "It is one of the most deserving causes I have ever got involved with."

Chief executive Neville Goldschneider was "absolutely delighted by the fantastic turnout and the outstanding generosity of so many people.

"The funds raised will go a long way towards ensuring that Camp Simcha can continue to be there for the many hundreds of children who need us."

Last updated: 3:10pm, February 11 2011