Willow blog

Brave Willow Champion Honoured

February 6, 2015

Jan O’Brien, Willow Champion and beneficiary of a Special Day, has been recognised by David Cameron for her extraordinary fundraising efforts. Nominated by supporter Chris Green, prospective Conservative MP for Bolton West, she attended the reception hosted by the Prime Minister for community champions last week.

Jan told Willow that “To receive an invitation through the door from 10 Downing Street and to be honoured as Community Champion by the Prime Minister took me completely by surprise and came as a complete shock! As a Special Day beneficiary, I have always been passionate about Willow and helping other individuals and their families to benefit from a Special Day. Whether it be organising fundraising events, raising awareness or speaking about Willow in the local and wider community I know only too well the difference and impact Special Days can have from the initial contact to the daily and ongoing long term impact. It was an incredibly proud day not just for me but for all my family, friends, medics and supporters to take Willow to Downing Street, step behind the famous black door and to meet the Prime Minister, David Cameron. A truly memorable Special Day and a huge honour which I share with everyone who has and continues to support me.”

When Jan was diagnosed with cancer in 2006, she asked Willow if she could see The Sound of Music and meet the star of the show, Connie Fisher. Jan said “I can still remember the sheer delight and buzz I felt when I received the call from Willow to tell me I was having my Special Day. Up until this point I couldn’t see any future or way forward this was it; the turning point in my recovery.”

Speaking of her Special Day, Jan recalls how she felt a “whirlwind of emotions. The worries, pain, uncertainty of life and frequent terrifying experiences I had faced over the past year felt like a lifetime ago. I felt normal again, purposeful and empowered.”

Not only is Jan a community champion, but she is also a Willow Champion, making her part of an incredible group of people who go that one step further to support Willow.

A Willow Champion spreads the word in their local community (and beyond) and is committed to raising lots of money so that one day we can offer a Special Day for every seriously ill young adult in the UK. Some wonderful things that Willow Champions do are to: give talks about Willow to local schools, businesses and groups, spread the word in the press, place collection tins in their local communities, support fundraising events and so much more. All Willow Champions receive support from Willow HQ, have access to training (where appropriate) and all are a part of the Willow Champions Community.

Thank you Jan, from all of us at Willow. We were over the moon when we heard that your efforts have been recognised in such an exciting way, you have made such a wonderful contribution to Special Days and truly deserve it.