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Ollie's name lives on to help fund brain tumour research

It's two years since the 13-year-old from Aston Clinton passed away.

Published by Dan Gooding at 5:51am 19th November 2019. 7-minute read.

Ollie's name lives on to help fund brain tumour research

It is two years today since an Aston Clinton family lost their son to cancer, but Ollie Gardiner's legacy lives on.

Aylesbury Vale helped to raise nearly £500,000 to fund his treatment, but not all of it was used.

Ollie's dad Peter told us they're donating a chunk to Brain Tumour Research to mark the anniversary of his passing:

"Research is the thing which is absolutely, desperately needed.

"We live in Aston Clinton and in our village three children have died of a brain tumour in recent years and currently there are two adults and one child suffering with brain tumours, also in the village."

More of our stories about Ollie

Ollie's name will also live on when Aston Clinton gets its new Scout hut, which is moving forward, and it will be called Ollie's Hall.

ollie and family 1
Ollie & his family

Jane and Peter Gardiner's  £187,500 gift to Milton Keynes-based Brain Tumour Research is one of the largest single donations received by the charity this year and will fund a researcher over the next five years.

The couple lost their 13-year-old son, Ollie, on 19 November 2017, two and a half years after he was first diagnosed with a high-grade medulloblastoma brain tumour.

Jane, 51, an accountant, said:

"Ollie was a fun-loving boy, so full of life and enthusiasm.

"He had a great sense of humour and loved the outdoors, sports and particularly cricket."

The first indication that anything was wrong came when Ollie seemed to have a reoccurring tummy bug. Having been back and forth to the GP, his parents paid privately for Ollie to have an MRI scan.

Peter, also 51 and a broadcast engineer, said:

"The following day, I received the phone call that totally changed our lives. A mass the size of a golf ball had been found in the back of Ollie's brain and it had to come out fast."

Ollie, who also left a brother Theo, now 13, underwent surgery lasting 10 hours and further emergency craniotomies, as well as chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Ollie at Downing Street
Ollie at Downing Street

In September 2015, he defied the odds when against all expectations, he started secondary school at the John Colet in Wendover whilst undergoing further chemotherapy. In April 2016, Ollie had his end of treatment MRI scan. 

Peter added:

"We all cried the day Ollie walked out of his paediatric cancer ward for the last time, ringing his chemo bell as loud as he could.

"We started to believe Ollie could beat the disease."

Tragically, just a few months later, a routine scan revealed that Ollie's cancer was back and had spread throughout his brain and into his spine.

Ollie's family and friends launched an appeal and the whole community got behind them, resulting in Ollie's Fund raising nearly £500,000.

Despite further chemotherapy, as well as pioneering treatment at Harley Street and experimental immunotherapy treatment in Germany, both funded by donations to the fund, nothing could be done to save Ollie. 

Peter and Jane Gardiner are now making this generous donation from the monies left from Ollie's Fund's crowdfunding.  The sum will be allocated to fund a researcher at the charity's dedicated centre within Queen Mary University of London over the next five years. 

Medulloblastomas are the most common brain cancers seen in young children. Treatments, which can be effective and kill the tumour cells in a proportion of patients, almost invariably also result in severe side effects which are particularly damaging in children as the brain is still growing.

ollie and family 3 hospital
Ollie and family in hospital

Ollie's legacy will fund postdoctoral research assistant Sara Badodi, working within an impressively strong team of researchers who are developing new treatment strategies to inhibit the progression of aggressive medulloblastoma. If successful, preclinical results derived from this project will directly inform the design of signature-matched clinical trials in medulloblastoma.

Peter, himself a graduate from Queen Mary University of London, said:

"We feel tremendous guilt that despite all the enormous support and fundraising from the community and all the treatments we pursued to keep him alive, we failed Ollie, but the sad fact is that much more research is needed to find a cure for this devastating disease. 

"Two years after losing him, we are trying to come to terms with what has happened and continues to happen to other children and we are hoping that this donation will really help to get closer to finding a cure for the biggest cancer killer of children and adults under the age of 40."

Remaining funds from Ollie's Fund are being distributed to a number of local charities who supported Ollie and his family, including buying a pony for disabled children at Horsewyse (a riding school and equine learning centre) in Long Crendon, as well as monies to Calvert-based Taylan's Project, a Fundraising Group for Brain Tumour Research, which also supports families with terminally ill children.

Chief executive of Brain Tumour Research, Sue Farrington Smith MBE, said:

"The tragedy of Ollie's story reminds us that brain tumours are indiscriminate; they can affect anyone at any age. What's more, less than 20% of those diagnosed with a brain tumour survive beyond five years compared with an average of 50% across all cancers, and we cannot allow this desperate situation to continue.

"Losing a child to a brain tumour is devastating; you never get over it. I know a little of what the family are going through, having lost my sister's little girl Alison Phelan to a brain tumour just three weeks before her eighth birthday. As a family we were shocked at the lack of awareness and horrified to discover how little research was going into brain tumours and were determined to change this. 

"Brain Tumour Research is indebted to the Gardiner family for their incredible support in funding the fight against brain tumours. Together we will make Ollie's light shine even brighter."

Brain Tumour Research funds sustainable research at dedicated centres in the UK. It also campaigns for the Government and the larger cancer charities to invest more in research into brain tumours in order to speed up new treatments for patients and, ultimately, to find a cure.

The charity is calling for the national spend on brain tumour research to increase to £35 million a year in order to improve survival rates and patient outcomes in line with other cancers such as breast cancer and leukaemia and is also campaigning for greater repurposing of drugs.

To donate, go to www.braintumourresearch.org/donation and indicate your donation is to Ollie's Fund.

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