Childrens Cancer Charity - My Shining Star
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Meet the My Shining Star Family

Anita Marinelli

Founder and chair
A very personal journey and a tribute.

My Shining Star has a little bit of a story behind it and how it was founded, which is important to our journey….

In late 2009, cancer affected my family when my 8 year old cousin was diagnosed with Leukaemia out of nowhere. This was my family’s first experience with childhood cancer and the horror and upheaval that came along with it.

In January 2014, I was on maternity leave when my dad passed away suddenly at the age of 53. Whilst experiencing such intense grief, my one year old daughter then had several admissions to intensive care (9 times in 8 months to be precise) and we nearly lost her. She is fine now but I remember the walls of the hospital caving in, my husband having unpaid time off work trying to juggle my other daughter and helping me. I remember thinking, ”how do families of children with long term illnesses do this?’. Being apart as a family was difficult, so was coping financially.

Two weeks after Eliza’s last admission, my friends two year old daughter Ruby was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. It was such a horrendous shock, her daughter being 6 months older than my own and so seemingly well. Being touched by grief and loss and my hospital experience - I then went on a crusade to support the family practically- and by spearheading the fundraising for Ruby’s treatment. This campaign was huge- brought a huge spotlight to childhood cancer and we raised £600,000 in just 10 months! The fundraising was a labour of love and a coping mechanism- in paying tribute to my dad (My Shining Star) and making sure that Ruby’s life wasn’t decided by money. In 2016, I was the overall pride in Medway winner. This was only a platform to help others. I always said if we help ten more families through a difficult time, it is a job well done. I had a massive amount of support from a fantastic community and from friends who really wanted to make a difference. Most make up the My Shining Star trustees. It really has taken a village! I believe the event of 2014 onwards have been turned on their head to create something positive and amazing. A tribute and coping mechanism. In memory of my dad but of so many children that have made a huge impact on us as human beings.

There just isn’t enough support for siblings who struggle, bereaved families and for hardship. But we are so proud to say that we are a small part of trying to change that. Every family we help mean a lot to us. We try to give them as much nurturing and practical support as possible and families facing this horrific journey have become friends.

I am pleased to say that Ruby is in remission and has had her very last cancer scan. The world is hers to conquer.

Heather O’Keeffe

Trustee
I began volunteering for My Shining Star in 2019, where I saw first hand the work the charity does to support families across the UK. I then began fundraising for the charity to help raise vital funds to support services such as hardship grants, counselling and bereavement support.

The devastation to the family unit following a Childs diagnosis of cancer gives me the determination to raise awareness of childhood cancer and contribute towards helping to support families going through such a difficult time in their lives.

Dean Johnson

Trustee
Married, Father of 2 with two lovely Black Labradors. Loves walking, eating out, drinking Jack Daniels & enjoying the sun and going on holidays !! Bit of a Workaholic running Signs & Imaging doing signage, graphics and wrapping and when time allows a bit of golf (albeit badly most of the time).

I wanted to get involved with MSS after reading about Ruby Laura’s campaign many years ago and had a discussion with Anita. Everything went from there and I have supported them personally and in business as the charity does great things for children and their families. Every little helps that everyone does and although we are a small team, it works great and everything is for the cause. Everyone has busy lives nowadays but if everyone gave a little time / support / money to help others – the world will be a much better place.

Unfortunately too many sad stories of children with life limiting problems and our aim is to help them and their families in the best way we can with the time they have left – that’s what drives us all to push the charity forward in helping more families.

Margaret Stanley

Trustee
I am a Mum & a Nan. I work part time with my son & we also help to supply the promotional products for the charity. I enjoy being a trustee and helping with the raffles & organising fundraising events when we are able, knowing the monies is going to help families when they need it most.

Gemma Justice

Trustee
I initially supported the fundraising for Ruby Laura and built a solid friendship with Anita. We quickly realised that all of the hard work could make a difference to lots of other families.

I bring experience in event planning, health and safety and compliance and I am always striving to juggle my full time job and support the charity needs.

Michelle Jones

Trustee
I started working with Anita, the charity founder prior to My Shining Star, on a campaign for Ruby. I would help collect money at football stadiums, charity events, boxing. We met when I performed as a princess at Ruby’s first event.

As a mum of four myself (with registered disabled son) I have spent enough time in hospital. I have a slight insight as to how hard it can be. Prior to my joining, I’ve helped visiting The Royal Marsden and Medway hospital, as well as performing or providing princesses and mascots at every opportunity. It was and still is a privilege to be a part of a charity that makes such a huge difference to families at a time where everything can look so bleak. Serving both our local and wider community is such an honour, I am so proud of what the charity has achieved and cannot wait to see where it goes.

Estelle Thompson

Trustee
I first met the team at My Shining Star when I was asked to photograph their Christmas event in 2017. I loved being a part of such an incredible event and loved everything the team stood for and were doing. I worked with them numerous times following this, and when they asked me to photograph their present day at The Royal Marsden I knew I wanted to help more so I became a trustee. I am on hand to photograph any events or families that the charity work with and I love being part of such an incredible charity.
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