A couple from Stonea in Cambridgeshire have completed a marathon tractor ride in memory of their daughter who sadly died earlier this year, raising more than £17,000 for East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH) in the process.
Alyson and Neil Clark travelled 990 miles from Lands End to John O’Groats, being sent on their way by a small legion of tractor fans last Tuesday (1 November) before arriving as scheduled on Saturday. They towed a candy pink trailer along the route in tribute to their daughter Mikayla – dubbed Little Miss Giggles by the Manea Pre-School she attended – who passed away on 12th April, aged just four.
The couple made every effort to make their unusual challenge a success and were inundated with support – some drivers even flashed them over to give them a donation. All the money is going to EACH, which supported Mikayla, as well as her parents and her brother Alfie, two, through what will perhaps be the toughest period of their lives.
Additional backing came in the form of the blue New Holland T7.225 power tractor Alyson and Neil drove, which was kindly donated by Ely-based G & J Peck Ltd. There were various other offers of support, most notably from The Coach & Horses in Winterbourne Abbas, south west Dorset, which ran a fundraising evening when the couple stopped over.
The tractor ride was inspired by Mikayla, who loved to spend time with her dad, a 33-year-old farm manager for E.H. Morris (Stonea) Limited, on the farm.
She was diagnosed with a brain stem tumour called diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) a few days after her fourth birthday. Her family were given the devastating news that there was no cure for her tumour and began palliative treatment to try and relieve some of Mikayla’s symptoms. Her condition improved enough for the family to enjoy a treasured six months – periods of which were spent at EACH’s hospice in Milton – before she sadly died.
Alyson, 29, explained: “Mikayla always had a smile, she was a cheeky little girl who knew how to wrap her parents around her little finger – especially her daddy! Mikayla had a love for life and loved being outdoors, especially being out on the farm with daddy as his co-pilot. Even as she began to get more poorly, she never let her illness stop her doing what she wanted – she was a very determined little girl!
“The care we received from EACH at Milton was excellent. We received support from the Symptom Management Team, which was on hand 24 hours a day to give us advice on Mikayla’s condition and managing her medication. A nurse specialist would visit us at home to see how she was doing and as a family we would go to Milton for day care. We had hydrotherapy once a week, which Mikayla loved. Every member of staff played a part in the care we received as a family. All the staff we came in contact with throughout our time at Milton were friendly and welcoming, and nothing was too much trouble. It’s more than a job to the staff, they are caring, compassionate and believe in the work they do.
“Myself and Neil made the decision that we wanted end of life care at Milton so we spent the last six days of her life there. Everyone at the hospice helped to make this time as easy and precious as possible. Julie the head chef said to us after breakfast one morning that she had made a chocolate cheesecake as she thought we could do with a chocolate fix. Little things like this make the difference. Alfie our son was always welcome, as were visitors and other family members, and visits were never restricted. The Wellbeing Team helped us make memory keepsakes, which we will treasure for ever.
“Having EACH gave us choices which we never thought possible. The staff made the hardest journey we have ever had to make that little bit easier to bear. We never felt alone, there was always somebody there who would listen to us. It was a place we could be at home without being at home. We still use support from the hospice, I have counselling sessions which are a real help.
“If EACH wasn’t there I don’t know what we would have done as we really felt we couldn’t be at home when Mikayla passed, it would have been too much. They are an essential lifeline for families. There are not enough words to say how thankful we are to EACH, we were amazed at the service they do provide. We will never forget what the staff at Milton did for us, the work they do is truly amazing. This charity will always be close to our hearts and that is why we have decided to do our tractor challenge to raise money for them.”
As well as Winterbourne Abbas, the route Alyson and Neil took saw them stop in Grantham, Newcastle and Inverness. With their pink trailer, featuring logos of the countless companies that offered their support, they were an easy spot for other motorists!
At Mikayla’s funeral balloons were released with messages of love. Alyson and Neil did the same at John O’Groats, releasing three purple balloons to represent themselves and Alfie and 12 pink ones for Mikalya.
Neil said: “Big thank you to all the support and help along the way making this possible, but just as the journey ends the donations are still coming so please if you can help us hit the £20,000 mark this would be amazing.
“Mikayla this has been for you for being our little star. The inspiration behind all this has come from the little Miss Giggles we all know you for.
“It’s with a tear I say I love you and miss you, even knowing you’ve been with us through the whole journey, keep shining our star.”
Sophie Baker, EACH Cambridgeshire Community Fundraiser, said: “Congratulations to Alyson and Neil on completing this challenge, which has been a fitting tribute to Mikayla.
“They have been great ambassadors for the charity, really going above and beyond what we expect of any fundraisers and raising a huge amount of money.
“We need £6 million a year to run our services across Cambridgeshire, Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk, and rely on voluntary donations for the majority of our income, so Alyson and Neil’s efforts are a major boost.”
To boost Alyson and Neil’s fundraising total, visit their JustGiving page at www.justgiving.com/Princess-Mikayla.