In 2010, Lee’s mum Janice Lewis was diagnosed with Non Hodgkins-Lymphoma Cancer. From the day of that diagnosis the hospital became their life for the next 4 years. During that time life threw them many challenges. In 2012, Lee's Nan passed away. Then 6 months later Lee’s Dad, Chris Lewis passed away unexpectedly following a heart attack. In February 2013, their new build home completely flooded due to the builders fitting an incorrect pipe. They lost everything and had to live in a hotel for 3 months whilst their house was rebuilt. They were as they would describe at “rock bottom”. They never fully appreciated the realities of cancer and supporting the family member because Chris had shielded them from that. However, when the 2 of them took over his role, they learnt how tough it was financially, physically and emotionally. This was not only for the person with cancer but their families. Losing everything put their life into perspective and they thought what could they do to make life a little bit easier for people in hospital and try and make people happy.
Initially, Lorraine decided she wanted to raise money to fund the 11 TV and DVD players for the private rooms on Talbot Butler ward in Northampton General Hospital. This was the ward Lee's mum had spent a lot of time, when she had been in and out of hospital. It costs £10 a day or £35 a week to watch TV, which the majority of people would pay even though no one could really afford it. So, over a 2 year period Lorraine did Tough Mudder and Rat Race Dirty Weekend (20 miles, 200 obstacles), something completely out of her comfort zone to fundraise for these TV's. She had to do it, as she knew it would make a difference. Plus, they were getting fed up of bringing their own 32 inch TV in and out of the hospital. Lorraine achieved that and then they both thought what they could do on a long term basis.
When Lorraine and Lee would visit Janice in hospital they would either bring in items for patients or run down to the shop for patients to grab items they needed like magazines, toiletries etc. That was when they came up with the idea of giving free gift packs to people in hospital, so they could have items they loved without having to worry about paying for it. Then they could spend time with people so they didn't feel lonely and the gifts they received could help take people's mind off thinking about cancer. So, they decided to set up a charity that did just that. In April 2016 The Lewis Foundation was born. They initially started off with giving 80 gift packs a month to one ward with a choice of 8 gifts, which was Talbot Butler Ward in Northampton General Hospital. However, the demand for the gift packs grew. They then provided their gifts to the day patients in Northampton General Hospital. Over a 3 year period they now provide their gifts at 6 hospitals within East Midlands. In addition to Northampton General Hospital, they also visit BMI Three Shires, Northampton, Kettering General Hospital, Bedford Hospital, Leicester Royal Infirmary and Milton Keynes University Hospital Trust. They now provide 2000 free gift packs a month to cancer patients in hospitals and have a selection of 27 gift packs available.
The Lewis Foundation visits each hospital every week with a trolley full of gifts for people to pick what they would like during treatment free of charge. The gifts are available to all adult cancer patients. There is no limit to the number of gifts someone can have during treatment and no donations are taken in return.
Since they began, they have given out:
2016 - 657
2017 - 3325
2018 – 12900
Examples of the impact of the gifts have had:
Thank you so much for your kindness and being so thoughtful. My last stay was not planned and your lovely puzzle pack and adult dot to dot book made my stay go so much quicker. I love the fact that you take time out to do this but also speak to patients and their families.
I had a late appointment in oncology and feeling very unwell, after tests I was admitted to the ward. I had nothing with me but thanks to your charity I was handed an overnight bag with the vital things in it such as being able to clean my teeth. I was so grateful, it is a 30 mile round trip for my family to bring things in, so that overnight bag was so my life saviour.
My mother in law has been having chemo since April and most weeks gets one of your wonderful gifts. It certainly brightens a tough day. Even in this manic crazy world it is great to think people take time to think and care for others who need a little gesture to make a very hard time a bit better. And amazing you also take time out to personally deliver the bags.
How the community now get involved:
The Lewis Foundation is about bringing people together. People are getting involved in whatever way they can to help. This ranges from fundraising, holding collection drives for items or gift packing. The help of the community is what enables the charity to support adult cancer patients in hospital each week, as Lee and Lorraine still work full time jobs. They give up their spare time to do this. Patients who have received the packs and their families are now involved with the charity and are helping The Lewis Foundation to help others. For the recipients they have said helping gives them something to do at a time they no longer work. They also want to help cheer up others that are experiencing what they have. It has helped with patient care in hospitals, at a time when the NHS is stretched.
Lee's mum is now in remission. Through the toughest 4 years of their life, they identified a need and created something positive.