Starlets and superheroes took to the stage as children with life-limiting illnesses and their siblings were invited to dress-up, sing, dance and be pop stars for a day.
The poorly children and their families, friends and siblings attended a “memory making” day at the Brighton Dome yesterday and spent the afternoon dancing and jiving.
The day was organised by Brighton based charity Facing Forward.
The charity aims to provide creative arts programmes to help children living with illness to build confidence and self esteem and promote their sense of wellbeing – as well as make memories.
Kirstin Seriven from Seaford attended with her daughter Bella, aged 9, who suffers from leukaemia.
She said: “My little girl loves it and it is a fantastic chance for them to socialise and break down boundaries.
“She loves being on the stage, dancing and the cameras.
“People come down to support them.
“It is nice to be doing something that is not hospital related.”
She said it is important for the children to be able to bond with one another and learn how to talk about their illnesses.
Facing Forward hosts the event every year and parents at the event called it “invaluable” in helping their children enjoy themselves and just “be children again”.
Ms Seriven said that as well as being a fun day for the children it is also an opportunity for the parents to get together and bond about their shared experiences.
She said: “Four of us have come together and made good friends. It gives us a chance to talk about what we are going through.
“It is really lovely. It is hugely helpful to be able to talk to the other parents.”
“The day makes memories for both us and the children.”
Claire Johns, a social worker from the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital, said it was important for the parents to be able to come together and talk about their experiences.
Tasleen Carstairs, founder of Facing Forward, organised the event at The Dome and she was praised by parents – who called her a “real inspiration”.
Rachel Keogh, from Angmering, who attended with her daughters Jessica, 8, who suffers from a blood disorder, and Emily, 12, said: “Tasleen is just amazing and she is helping us make happy memories.”
Ms Carstairs was honoured at the end of the event with the presentation of a special bunch of flowers from the children who took part. She said “Our aim is to develop self-esteem, confidence and health and well-being through theatre and make-up workshops.
“I’m aware of the challenges young people face every day, living with cancer and other life threatening conditions.
“I wanted to give them the opportunity to enjoy the experience of making their own pop video, dressing the part, creating special memories and above all having fun.”
The day was recorded by Forward Facing and all families will receive a copy of the film.
Children were decked out in their very best glad rags and costumes, with clothes that were sparkly, sequinned and multicoloured.
Some of the boys opted for Superhero outfits, with costumes including Captain America and The Hulk.
The children spent the afternoon learning and rehearsing a dance routine set to the song Happy by Pharrell Williams.
Sian Waite, from Seaford, who attended with her daughters Elin, 8, who suffers from Ewing’s Sarcoma, and Nia, 4, said the Memory Making days are “unbelievable”.
She said: “Ellie is not the most extroverted but she loves the pampering side of things. They have been going on about it for weeks.”
“My four-year-old tried on about ten dresses before deciding, she loves it.”
The day came to an end with a presentation of certificates, shiny balloons, Easter eggs and goody bags, leaving every child that took part with a smile on their face.
Tasleen Carstairs thank edeveryone who helped at the event.
Pippa Smith, head of learning and access participation at Brighton Dome, said: “Brighton Dome is delighted to host Forward Facing’s Memory Days, events bring smiles and tears – reminding us all of what is really worth doing and uniting our team in a common endeavour to use our skills to make each event the best it can possibly be”.