Sunderland family thank fundraiser for £26,000 donation after she pulled the plug on Grace House cash

Kian Armstrong with parents Jemma and Neil
Kian Armstrong with parents Jemma and Neil
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“We thank her from the bottom of our hearts.”

A Sunderland family whose lifeline charity has been boosted by an unexpected donation of more than £26,000 have expressed their heartfelt gratitude to a tireless fund-raiser.

Kian Armstrong receives his cheque from Julie Reay

Kian Armstrong receives his cheque from Julie Reay

Julie Reay’s donation has secured the future of Kian’s Gift, a holiday caravan which gives families affected by the death or illness of a child, a break at the toughest time of their lives.

It was set up by the family of Kian Armstrong, five, from Castletown who has proved inspirational after defying the odds to battle back from rare cancer neuroblastoma.

Yesterday, the Echo revealed how Julie, from Barnes, had intended to give £50,000 raised through her Peter David Lane Trust Fund to Grace House.

Read more: Fundraiser pulls £50,000 donation from Grace House after charity changes hospice plans

However, after discovering that Grace House will be a respite facility instead of its intended purpose as a children’s hospice, she took the difficult decision to place the funds elsewhere.

Kian Armstrong with a recent football trophy

Kian Armstrong with a recent football trophy

While the lion’s share will go to Kian’s Gift, the remaining amount will be divided across a number of other Wearside charities.

Kian’s mum, Jemma Armstrong, 31, said: “I can’t express how much this means to us.

“It’s secured the future of the caravan and will create memories for years to come for families with a poorly child or who have lost a child.

“You don’t realise how precious memories like that are until you are in a situation where you may not have a tomorrow with your child.”

Kian Armstrong with parents Jemma and Neil

Kian Armstrong with parents Jemma and Neil

Since it was established just over a year ago, Kian’s Gift caravan, in Haggerston Castle, Northumberland, has welcomed more than 35 families through its doors.

Kian’s family and friends had managed to raise just over £21,000, but Julie’s donation means they can buy the caravan, which costs £40,000, as well as pay site fees and maintenance costs.

During the height of Kian’s illness, the Castletown Primary School pupil had visited the caravan park with his family.

It touched them all so much that he asked his family if they could provide a caravan for other youngsters.

“Kian is very hands on,” said Jemma, who is married to Neil.

“He calls it his caravan and he picked the site and the decor. Nobody can explain what it’s like to have a poorly child.

“But being up there gave us something, no one minded that he had tubes in his face and a bald head. It’s a place for fun and smiles, which are so precious.

“Julie’s donation means we don’t have to worry about the future of the caravan, and can provide memories for hundreds more families.”

Julie set up her fund-raising trust in memory of her son Peter, who died in a tragic rope swing accident in 2002. Jemma said: “Kian knows about Peter and how special he is.

“Our logo for the caravan is a heart because the whole place is about love, and next to the heart in the caravan is the poem Footprints in the Sand, which has become Julie’s poem for Peter.

“Julie has been with us since the beginning of Kian’s illness, when she paid for a house for his garden so he could play outside during his treatment.

“She gave us money from her boxing day dip fund-raising, but I never expected anything like this.”

Though Grace House has been built in Faber Road, Southwick, it was decided last year that it would no longer be a hospice.

When it does open its doors it will be a respite and short-break facility after signing a deal with Sunderland Care and Support, which will provide staff to help care for youngsters.

l Families who have lost a child, or who have been affected by childhood illness, can ask to stay at the Kian’s Gift caravan by searching for Kian’s Gift on Facebook or emailing