A teenage leukaemia survivor has described his involvement with a charity helping Jewish children with serious illness as the highlight of his life.
Sam Ryan told the 580 guests at Camp Simcha’s biennial gala dinner at Wembley Stadium how its volunteers had given him the confidence to make the most of each day.
Seventeen-year-old Sam was presented with a special recognition award by LBC radio presenter Nick Ferrari, who had conducted a mock phone-in with Camp Simcha clients and their parents.
The Ryan family live in Watford and have been assisted by the charity for over 10 years. Sam was diagnosed with leukaemia at the age of three. In 2007 he was told he had a brain tumour, from which he is now recovering.
“I did not have a childhood because I was in hospital and could not enjoy normal times as others do,” he explained. “My family play a huge part in supporting me, along with Camp Simcha. It feels like they are the only things keeping you going. Without their love and support, there’s nothing to look forward to, or take your mind off being ill.
“People need to know how amazing the charity is and how much help they give. Without the charity at least half the children here may not be alive today.”
Mr Ferrari said: “When I heard Sam’s story and then heard that he’d be here tonight, I wanted to recognise him as an emblem of all the children who have been helped. This is a cause worth digging deep for.”
Both Sam and his 12-year-old sister Megan take part in Camp Simcha’s Big Brothers and Sisters programme of days out with young volunteers.
The charity’s summer retreat offers parents the chance to meet others in similar situations while the youngsters make new friends and enjoy activities like helicopter rides and stunt shows.
Sam’s father Cliff said: “When [illness] happens to your family, it’s like the rug has been pulled out from under your feet. It’s hard to describe. I’m a great believer that the medical side has its role but you have to look after every aspect of family life as well.
“We will do everything we can to spread the word about the good that Camp Simcha does. There will be a lot of families who do not know the charity exists.”
Dinner chairman Jonathan Goldstein implored donors to continue their support during the economic downturn.
“We have an obligation to make a difference. If that means giving up something in our lives to help others, then so be it.”
The dinner was rearranged for last Wednesday after being postponed because of heavy snowfall the previous week.
Around £400,000 was raised on the night, but organisers expect that figure to rise with donations from supporters unable to attend on the new date.
Camp Simcha currently supports more than 300 children with cancer or other life-threatening illnesses in London, Manchester, Gateshead and Glasgow.