Rustington mum hosts Teddy Bears Picnic for Chestnut Tree House in memory of her son, and encourages others to join in the fundraising campaign
Teddy bears picnics are being held to raise money for Chestnut Tree House children’s hospice – and for one mum, it will be an important way to honour her little boy.
Brennan Stevens passed away at the age of seven in 2013, eight months after he was diagnosed with cancer on his brain stem.
Julie Stevens from Rustington, her partner Craig, 13-year-old daughter Mya and five-year-old-daughter Hope will be supporting the Teddy Bears Picnic campaign in memory of Brennan.
They raised £500 by taking part in the virtual picnic last year and cannot wait to take part again this year.
Julie said: “When we heard about Teddy Bears Picnic last year, we were all really excited to take part. Seeing the struggles faced by Chestnut Tree House during the pandemic was really unsettling.
“With charity shops having to close and all planned fundraising events put on hold, we really wanted to raise as much money as possible to help.”
Having experienced the work of the children’s hospice, she is joining the charity in urging families, schools and nurseries to grab their favourite teddy bear and hold their own picnics between Friday, May 7, and Sunday, May 9, to raise much-needed funds for children like Brennan.
Julie said: “Brennan was always so happy. He was a cheeky boy with a great sense of humour. He always lit up a room with his smile.
“Brennan suddenly became very anxious and tearful at school, developed an unsteady gait and a head tilt. Then came the crippling morning headaches and vomiting.”
It was when Brennan was six that Julie noticed these worrying symptoms appear over a couple of weeks.
After multiple visits to the GP and A&E, she was getting more and more worried about Brennan’s health, so booked an emergency optician appointment.
“The tests showed that Brennan had swollen optic nerves and we were referred straightaway to the eye clinic at the hospital,” she recalled.
“We went back the next morning for an MRI scan and that’s when we got the results that he had a large tumour on his brain stem.”
It was 2am when Julie and Brennan were transferred by ambulance to Southampton Hospital, where a biopsy was taken.
She said: “The results showed the tumour was a grade 4 glioblastoma multiforme and we were given the devastating news that Brennan would have only up to three months to live without treatment.
“We went home in total shock.”
Brennan was prescribed steroids, which reduced some of his symptoms, and began chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Julie pointed out: “This would not save him but it would relieve the pressure on his brain and give him more time.”
Throughout, the family was supported by Chestnut Tree House and the hospice became the ‘safety blanket’.
Julie said: “They were there for us in so many ways. With their help, we made lots of happy memories.
“Throughout everything, Brennan never stopped smiling, he was the most caring and loving little boy. He was taken from us way too soon. He’s forever loved and missed.”
Brennan passed peacefully away at home on February 7, 2013.
In his memory, Julie and her family will be packing a picnic and she encourages others to do the same.
She said: “If you’re thinking about taking part in Teddy Bears Picnic this year, then please, get involved. Eat lots of cake, have fun with your loved ones and raise much-needed funds for Chestnut Tree House, they are such a worthy cause.”
Anyone can take part and it is free to sign up. Visit www.chestnut-tree-house.org.uk/teddybearspicnic for more information.