Matt Paxton and Simon Hagger are on a mission – to raise £100,000 for the hospital that saved Evie Dove’s life.
Earlier this year, their good friends, Holiday Extras colleague Howard and his wife Katie, received the devastating news that their daughter Evie (12) had been diagnosed with a brain tumour. Since then Evie has undergone surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy and is now receiving regular immunotherapy treatment.
Inspired by Evie’s incredible bravery and resilience, and their friends’ desire to give something back to the King’s wards that looked after them so well, Matt and Simon now want to help other families with sick children by raising money for King’s College Hospital Charity.
The pair has already raised almost £20,000 for the hospital after completing two gruelling endurance events in July, smashing their initial £10,000 target in days. They now want others to join them to keep up the momentum and help them reach their new £100,000 fundraising goal.
“Howard is a lifelong friend of ours and our children have all grown up together. We desperately wanted to do something to help and when Howard and Katie suggested raising money for King’s we immediately agreed, says Simon.
“Whilst we had both been planning and training for a while, when we saw Evie’s determination we were just inspired to dedicate the events to her and start a fundraising mission” says Matt.
Simon did a relay swim in a team of three from Jersey to France, swimming 16.5 miles across the open ocean, completing the swim in 7 hours and 21 minutes, the third fastest relay time achieved on that route.
Matt completed his first long distance triathlon, also known as an ‘iron man’, by conquering the infamous Outlaw Nottingham course. The event consists of 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of cycling and 26 miles of running. Matt started just after 6am and finished just before 9pm, racking up a total of 14 ½ hours of exercise.
“Evie sent us both lovely little voice messages before our events and I must admit, when we listened to it, we all bawled our eyes out. It was just very emotional to do something for her.
When I swam ashore in France, I drew Evie’s name in the sand and the first phone call I made was to Evie and her parents, just to let her know how much she is supported and loved,” says Simon
“Going into the day I had no idea whether I would be able to complete the Iron Man as despite doing over 5000 miles of training you do not go near replicating the full distance in one go until the day” says Matt.
“But when times got tough in our events, we thought about raising money; we thought about what Howard, Kate and Evie and her little brother Ted are going through and it gave us perspective and the strength to keep going.
Evie was taken ill suddenly after having a seizure. A CT scan at her local hospital showed something on her brain and within 12 hours she was admitted to King’s. Evie underwent brain surgery at the hospital and during her stay, she was cared for on Lion Ward and Princess Elizabeth Ward. Money raised through Matt and Simon’s challenge will go towards helping other young patients and their families on these wards.
“Evie’s bright and cheerful and doing well right now,” says dad Howard.
“King’s saved her life. She had two very significant tumours which they operated on and the operation went very well. She received such wonderful care and treatment from all of the medical team at King’s, everyone we met was just exceptional – they couldn’t have done more.
"The minute we turned up at King’s on that first Friday morning, one of the consultants appointed to our case came to see us to explain things, to comfort us, to make it really clear that there was lots that they could do. And that continued all the way through. That support was amazing for two parents who weren’t expecting to find themselves in that situation. It just came out of the blue. You automatically fear the worst but King’s helped us to have hope."
Matt and Simon have pledged to do everything they can to help Evie, Howard and Katie make as much money as possible for King’s.
“We are just so determined to do everything we can to help other families who find themselves in similar circumstances,” says Matt.
“Our aspiration is to raise £100,000, so we are seeking additional support from individuals, groups and funding bodies,” says Simon
“It’s a huge amount to aim for but, like the events we’ve done so far and the target we initially set, you have to go for something way beyond what is probably reasonable and then just see where you get to.”