Reuben Graham would have been six on September 10. His birthday, just weeks after the anniversary of his death four years ago on August 21, 2012, is a date mum Nicola and dad Mike always mark by eating Reuben’s favourite food: sausages and mash.
The grief and pain of dealing with Reuben’s death at the age of 23 months, after developing an aggressive brain tumour, is only tempered by the work the pair have done for the charity in their son’s name, the support they have had from friends, family and travel industry colleagues, and their other son Isaac.
Only recently, companies at Travel Weekly’s Northern Ball raised £2,821 for Reuben’s Retreat, demonstrating how the cause remains close to the hearts of many travel agents and suppliers.
For Nicola and Mike, head of sales promotion for Travel Counsellors, the donations means work on the next phase of the retreat's development can continue.
The couple set up Reuben’s Retreat two days after their son’s passing to create a retreat for families suffering with terminally-ill children. The charity purchased the former Woods Hospital site in Glossop, Derbyshire, in 2014 to create its retreat.
Nicola, who gave up her job at Red Sea Holidays to devote her time to the charity, said: “We have enough money to do the hydrotherapy suite in the west wing but any money we get now will go towards a sensory room, arts and crafts area, messy play, and office space.”
The charity’s project totals £3.9 million, of which £1.8 million has been raised to date.
Only recently Tipto donated £2,395 to the charity, while businesses that have contributed large sums in the past include Manchester airport, and others continue to fundraise through events, enabling vital building work to continue.
“Through social media we are able to keep in touch with a lot of travel people,” added Nicola.
The Lodge at Reuben’s, a counselling and bereavement centre, was the first part of the retreat to be created. It has been up and running on the site since last summer.
As well as two counselling suites, there is a function room and an apartment for families to stay in as a respite break.
There is also a counselling suite in Ashton-under-Lyne, where the charity has its offices. To date 208 families have received help from the charity.
Work to repair the roof of the main building, at a cost of £210,000, is just coming to an end, and after the west wing is completed next year, there are plans for a £700,000 tea room, followed by four apartments for families in the east wing. Nicola has set an ambitious target to finish the work by 2020.
“We knew this was going to be a huge project, but it still takes my breath away when I think about it,” she admitted. “We have just been through our fourth year without Reuben and it has been one of the toughest yet.
“The charity has been a huge distraction for us, but it doesn’t go away.”
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