It has been almost 12 years since Ben Parker lost his battle with leukaemia but his legacy lives on in a charity run by parents Tracey and Darren.
Ben’s Den has seen thousands of pounds raised since its inception in 2004 which has paid for three caravans in Mablethorpe for families with poorly children.
Here Ben’s mum Tracey talks to the ‘Tiser about how she never anticipated how far the charity would come.
Tracey, 50, of Alvenor Street, said: “The majority of my times is taken up with the charity. It got far bigger than we expected and we are contacted by people all over the country wanting to raise money.
“This year has been brilliant. There is so much going off - Ilkeston Running Club donated proceeds from their Double or Quit race at Shipley Park on Saturday and I am doing a bike ride to Mablethorpe. There are four of us doing it - I have never done anything like this before. I’ve borrowed a bike and just need to get my confidence on the roads.”
A second bike ride will take place on September 20: “Ben was in Sheffield for the last years of his life so they will be riding to Sheffield,” said Tracey, who is hoping to meet some of the families that have benefitted from staying at Ben’s caravans. She has met a few families before that have stayed there but, sadly, some of the children have now died.
Families from the Midlands with ill children are referred to the charity by social workers from the children’s cancer charity Clic Sargant. They don’t have to pay anything and the park provides passes. Tracey, and husband Darren, chose Mablethorpe because it’s where they used to take their children when they were younger. Ben would have been 25 now, his brothers Luke and Ross are 28 and 22.
This year - between March and October - more than 40 families will have stayed at the Ben’s Den caravans.
Tracey and Darren wanted to help other families who would struggle to get away on holiday due to the commitments that come with having a child with cancer, which can often mean many hospital visits and taking time off work.
She said: “There was nowhere we could go so we thought with the money raised we could help pay for a holiday for people going through the same thing. Then our first fundraiser raised £11,000 so we thought we should do something more permanent and bought the caravan. When a child is in hospital there are a lot of expenses.”
Though more than a decade has passed since Ben’s death on November 13, 2003, it doesn’t get any easier. “It doesn’t seem like 12 years,” said Tracey. “It doesn’t get any easier and we don’t miss him any less, we just have to do things differently.
“The support we have had in Ilkeston is overwhelming and we would like to say thank you. People do it off their own back, we don’t ask anyone, it’s unbelievable. The community spirit is amazing and I’m sure Ben would be...well there is are no words.
“Just the other day someone was talking about Ben and saying he always used to call her name and run off. He was a joker.”
Tracey, who works at Kirk Hallam Community Academy as a learning support assistant, has lived in Ilkeston since she and Darren married almost 26 years ago. They celebrated their silver wedding anniversary last December.
Any funds raised from now on will go towards ensuring the three caravans remain up and running for a few years. They may even buy another one if the need is there.
More information on the charity can be found at www.bensden.com you can also make a donation on the site.
The aim is to support the families of children fighting leukaemia or cancer, by gifting them a free holiday.