Former actress Avril Mills has launched a charity to grant wishes for terminally ill children. The Dream Factory was set up by Miss Mills in memory of her son Oliver, who died from leukaemia in 1999, aged nine.
Founded earlier this year, the charity also grants wishes for young adults and people with severe disabilities. This week, it launched its website: www.yourdreamfactory.org, to coincide with what would have been Oliver’s birthday. He would have turned 18 today.
Ms Mills, 49, tells People: “When Oliver was ill in hospital, I asked him what I could do to make things better. He told me he wanted to meet some of the EastEnders cast, so I arranged for some of the cast members, including Martine McCutcheon, to come to the hospital where he was receiving treatment. There was also another charity in the hospital helping a sick boy to meet the Arsenal football team, and Oliver said: ‘Mummy, when I grow up, I want to do that’ [grant wishes].”
When Oliver died, Ms Mills spent seven years as a fundraiser for the Haven House Children’s Hospice before deciding to set up a charity of her own.
In its first five months, The Dream Factory — whose patrons include actor Ray Winstone, EastEnders star Patsy Palmer and MP Iain Duncan Smith — has granted six “dreams”. These have included presenting a laptop to a teenager with terminal cancer, making a 16-year-old girl a VIP for the day as she took a trip around London, and buying a Shetland pony for a five-year-old girl.
The Dream Factory is run completely by volunteers. “I just want to be able to help as many people as possible,” says Ms Mills, who has two other children. She lives in Epping.