Emma Willis: TV star makes dreams come true for terminally-ill children
Emma Willis gets emotional about being a mum
We use your sign-up to provide content in ways you’ve consented to and to improve our understanding of you. This may include adverts from us and 3rd parties based on our understanding. You can unsubscribe at any time. More info
“It is tough not to get emotional,” she admits, as she talks about meeting those other families at an event organised by the Make-A-Wish charity. “Once you start going there with the thoughts of what these kids and families are dealing with it’s incredibly hard not to cry, but you just have to park it for a bit. “If you meet a child of nine – and I have a nine-year-old – you can’t help going, ‘Oh My God, what if that was our reality?’ I’m going to get emotional now thinking about it,” she adds, as her voice cracks and her eyes fill up. “You cannot imagine what these families go through day-to-day and being here, it’s very easy to go down that thought process, but the families aren’t and it’s about them, so you’ve got to go and have that joy with them.”
And there is plenty of joy to be had for the children with life-limiting medical conditions and their families at The Elvetham hotel in Hampshire.
Make-A-Wish had been due to take them all for a magical trip to Disneyland Paris until Covid made that impossible.
So instead the charity has transformed the hotel into an “Enchanted Manor”, where, for the next three weeks, 150 youngsters and their families will meet Disney favourites, and do fun activities, all topped off with a sprinkling of celebrity fairydust from stars such as Emma, 45, and fellow TV host Stephen Mulhern.
“Being there and not crying has taken a lot,” says the presenter of The Voice on ITV and Emma Willis: Delivering Babies.
“But I try to remember that they are here for a joyous few days, and to maybe put aside what they live with day-to-day and just immerse themselves in this wonderful magical time that they’re having together as a family.
“They look so happy, and they are having a great time, so I just try and see that side of it and share in their joy. I’ll do my crying on the way home. In the car. This is their moment. This is their time.”
Families can take part in a variety of Disney-themed activities at the luxurious Tudor hotel, including a magical breakfast with Mickey and friends; a chance to perfect their web-slinging skills with Spider-Man; a Toy Story carnival with Buzz Lighyear and Woody; Jedi training by the Star Wars team; story time with Belle, or even a chance to sing Frozen songs with Anna, Elsa and Olaf.
But despite the emotional toll it takes, Emma says agreeing to support Make-A-Wish – which set up the enchanted mansion in conjunction with The Walt Disney Company and the Kentown Wizard Foundation – was one of the easiest decisions she’s ever had to make.
“When you meet these kids or before you’ve even met them, and you hear about what the charity does and the kids that they are helping and what the kids are going through; I mean, who in their right mind would say no to that?
“These kids deserve the wishes that are being granted more than anybody because their struggle is very real, every single day, so getting involved is a no brainer, isn’t it?”
One of the children Emma met was five-year-old Archie Burton from Wolverhampton, who was born with a disorder called Chromosome 10, which is so rare only five people in the world suffer from it.
Mum Rebecca Allen explains: “Archie’s is the rarest chromosomal disorder in the world, and it means he has the mental age and the mobility of a one-and-a-half-year-old,” she said. “When he was born, we found out he had a mini-stroke that caused him to be severely brain damaged.
“Birmingham Children’s Hospital told us he was never going to walk, he was never going to talk or eat properly.
When he was born, he wouldn’t bottle-feed and he was fed through a gastric tube.”
Now Archie is walking, has learned Makaton sign language and can say “Dad”, to the delight of his father Benjamin.
“He knows what he wants but in terms of the future we have no idea,” Rebecca, also mum to 10-year-old Ashley, adds.
“There is very little research on Chromosome 10, so we don’t know what his life expectancy is or if he’ll be able to look after himself.”
Despite the enormity of their daily challenges, the family remains remarkably upbeat, and their Make-A-Wish break has given Archie some fantastic memories.
“Archie’s dream is to meet Mickey Mouse,” says Rebecca, “and we’ve caught a glimpse of him already. We’re hoping for a one-to-one meeting with him soon.”
Toy Story astronaut Buzz and cowboy Woody have already provided the family with another moment to savour.
Rebecca explains: “Archie was waiting to go on the carousel and the lady said, ‘Buzz is here,’ and Archie was getting all excited. He had to quickly put his Buzz top on, put his glasses on and he had the biggest conversation with Buzz and Woody.
“He was so happy, and it really helps us stay positive, seeing that smile on his face.”
“This whole break has been a massive boost. When you see all the other children that are even worse off than Archie you do feel lucky.
“You just have to think like that because if you think the worst, you’ll just crack up and go nuts.”
Emma, married to Busted pop star Matt Willis, is mum to Isabelle, 12, Ace, nine, and five-year-old Trixie.
Both her parents worked in the NHS, which may be what spurred her to get involved in the Covid vaccination effort earlier this year.
“A friend of Matt’s had become a vaccinator and was volunteering,” she explains. “And we were all sat at home doing nothing in January. Matt saw it on Instagram and he was like, ‘Oh my god, how amazing. We can help and do something rather than just sitting here.’
“So, we both decided to do the St John Ambulance vaccination training programme. I trained as a vaccinator and Matt trained as a vaccination centre care assistant and we both did all of our training and passed but frustratingly I’ve not been able to put it into practice yet.
“I couldn’t get a shift to start with because they had so many volunteers. And then when I did get a shift, I had to go into isolation for a show I was about to start filming so I couldn’t go to the vaccination centre.
“And since then, work has gone from nothing to absolutely manic. Trying to get a shift on a day off is almost impossible. So, I can vaccinate people, I just still haven’t had a chance to do it yet. I’m a jabber in waiting but I’m still keeping everything crossed that I will get to help in some way.”
Emma is also hoping to reprise her appearance as a maternity care assistant on an NHS ward in the next series of Delivering Babies on the W Channel, an experience she cherished on the first three series.
“In terms of satisfaction, there is nothing like watching a life come into the world. That’s the ultimate. And I can never quite get over the fact that somebody allows us into that most private of moments.
“It was an incredible experience. Let’s face it, TV presenting isn’t rocket science or brain surgery. We read words on the telly and have fun. So, to do something that allows you to give back is extremely rewarding.”
Disney UK, Make-A-Wish UK, and The Kentown Wizard Foundation have joined forces for the Disney Wish Experience, the first three-week event supporting 150 wish children and families from across the UK. To find out more visit make-a-wish.org.uk
Source: Read Full Article