A Ground Force-style army of volunteers worked night and day to help heal a Luton family’s pain at losing their youngest child to cancer.
Brave Reece Nelson, of Rossfold Road, Sundon Park, passed away in September three weeks before his ninth birthday, after bravely battling a brain tumour for a year.
After his funeral, mum Debbie and dad Steve took Reece’s big brother Charlie, 10, on holiday to spend some quality time together.
But what they didn’t know was that back home, Debbie’s mum Catherine and dad Trevor, of Pinewood Close, were on a mission to try and put a smile back on their faces.
After a “lightbulb moment”, Trevor enlisted the help of friends and family to give them the garden of their dreams.
Materials were donated by companies including Gibbs & Dandy, Butterfields, B&Q, Regis Lighting and Docherty’s, and scores of people gave both money and time, working through wind and rain on the project.
Twenty-three tonnes of earth were moved, a new lawn laid, walls built, raised decking constructed, a summer house put up, paving put down and special corners created for both Reece and Charlie.
And an army of tea ladies made sure the workers were well fed and watered.
“Debbie, Steve and Charlie have been through so much, so we wanted to give them somewhere they could enjoy,” said Trevor.
“People put in so much effort – we couldn’t have wished for more.”
The garden’s themes were the four elements of wind, water, earth and fire, to remember Reece, who loved nature and animals, and wanted to be a vet.
In March we reported that the popular Sundon Park Junior School pupil had beaten his illness after intense chemotherapy and radiotherapy at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.
But in August he was taken ill while on holiday in Norfolk with his family.
An MRI scan brought the devastating news that his cancer had returned, and had spread to his spine.
“You wonder how it can go so wrong so quickly,” said Steve. “We had him home for three weeks and lost him on September 11.”
The family took the decision not to tell Reece that he was dying.
“How do you tell an eight-year-old that?,” said Debbie. “We didn’t want him to be frightened. We said the doctors were trying to get his pain under control.
“He was such a phenomenal little boy. Towards the end he could barely speak but he was still trying to make us laugh.
“He would say, ‘It’s all right mummy’.”
The family tried to give Reece as many happy times as possible in the last weeks of his life, taking him to see the musical Shrek in London, and bringing forward his birthday party, where magician Dynamo – an ambassador for the charity Rays of Sunshine – entertained guests.
Hundreds of people attended Reece’s funeral, and the family’s request for donations to charity Brain Tumour UK raised more than £3,000.
Debbie and Steve told the Herald&Post they wanted to express their gratitude to everyone who had helped give them their dream garden.
“We want to say the biggest thank you,” said Debbie. “It doesn’t mend a broken heart but it certainly helps.
“What they achieved was unbelievable, and it shows how important friends and family are.”
To make a donation in Reece’s memory, visit www.braintumour.org.uk