The legacy of a brave Sunderland girl whose life was tragically cut short will live on thanks to a major fund-raising event in her name.
Little Layla Davis was born with congenital heart disease (CHD) and had to have open heart surgery when she was just months old at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital.
She had Shone’s Complex which affects only 1% of all children born with CHD and despite defying the odds many times, the Ryhope youngster sadly passed away a year ago on Saturday aged four.
During Layla’s treatment at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital, her and her family befriended Oliver Gleeson, of Plains Farm, who was born with half a heart at just 22 weeks in October 2012, weighing a tiny 4lbs.
Plucky Oliver turned five on Friday, a milestone which it looked at times like he would be unlikely to reach.
United by the struggles they have faced, the families of both Layla and Oliver have joined forces to put on the Wonderland Ball charity event next month at Sunderland’s Point venue.
Cash raised will go towards the Children’s Heart Unit Fund (Chuf) at the Freeman.
Oliver’s mum Joanne, 47, told the Echo: “Oliver has had about 30 operations so far and he wasn’t expected to start school, but he has and he’s now at Sunningdale and doing OK despite everything.
“His heart can’t be fixed and they can’t give a time scale on what will happen so we just carry on as normal as possible.
“After everything the Freeman has done, we wanted to give something back for all they have.
“We’ve become best friends with Layla’s families through this all and losing her was awful for our family too.”
Layla’s mum Amanda, 34, who is also mum to Makenzie, 14, Mia, nine and Lucas, two, and is six months pregnant with her next child, said: “We’re really looking forward to the ball but it’s going to be heart-wrenching at the same time.
“We want to do a lot for the Freeman because if it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t have the four years and four months that we did with Layla.
“The past year has been very difficult, but I’ve got three children and I’m pregnant so I have to keep going.
“Oliver means the world to us too and that’s why we wanted to help get the Wonderland Ball sorted.
“Chuf are brilliant in what they provide, but we pass on gifts that are nothing extravagant, it’s the bereaved helping the bereaved.
“We want to help as many people as we can.
“Every time we take things in for people, they are great appreciated.”
The Wonderland Ball, organised with the help of BDazzled Florals and Events, takes place on Friday, November 3, with a three-course meal served as well as entertainment by Karen Shiel School of Dance, Jailhouse Blues Brothers and Tarny Kelly.
Tickets are priced at £50 per head and can be bought by going to Cafe Purple in Sunderland city centre.
“We passionately wanted to do this event in Sunderland so we’re pleased we’ve been able to,” added Joanne, who is married to Sean, with who she also has Jack, nine.
“We wanted to keep it in the city centre so that it’s easy for plenty of people to get to.
“Both families have had so much support from people in the area as well.”
Sponsors are still needed for the event, and anyone interested in helping out should contact Joanne on 07428900084 or Amanda on 07538952058.