Aunt of toddler with brain cancer thanks public after fundraising drive smashes target

Claire Smith, the aunt of sick toddler Caleb Stirrat (pictured), said the widespread generosity from the public has reduced the family to tears. Picture: SWNS
Claire Smith, the aunt of sick toddler Caleb Stirrat (pictured), said the widespread generosity from the public has reduced the family to tears. Picture: SWNS
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The aunt of a three-year-old boy with brain cancer has thanked the public after a fundraising drive to take the family to the US reached more than £6,000.

Claire Smith, the aunt of sick toddler Caleb Stirrat, said the widespread generosity from the public has reduced the family to tears.

Caleb, from Clydebank, West Dunbartonshire, was one of three triplets - alongside sisters Alyssia and Poppy - born 27 weeks premature in January 2016. Picture: SWNS

Caleb, from Clydebank, West Dunbartonshire, was one of three triplets - alongside sisters Alyssia and Poppy - born 27 weeks premature in January 2016. Picture: SWNS

Caleb, from Clydebank, West Dunbartonshire, was one of three triplets - alongside sisters Alyssia and Poppy - born 27 weeks premature in January 2016.

After suffering from headaches towards the end of February, a CT scan revealed Caleb had atprical teratoid rhabdoid tumour (ATRT), an aggressive and rare form of brain cancer.

He had surgery to have it removed and last month the youngster began a six month course of chemotherapy at Glasgow’s Royal Hospital for Children.

Last week (April 3), Caleb’s mum Karen, 33, and dad Andy, 42, were told by doctors that the NHS will pay for him to undergo proton beam therapy treatment in Florida, US.

The family are set to leave in two weeks and the NHS will cover the costs of accommodation for anyone going, however, they only cover the flight costs for Caleb and his mum and dad.

The treatment will take nine weeks and a consultant advised the family to go together, but the costs of taking Caleb’s siblings and his grandparents along were too much for the family to shoulder.

Karen said: “The NHS are only providing £1000 for expenses which for a family of 5 abroad for 3 months and still having to cover bills etc. here is nowhere near enough.

“So we are fundraising to get the girls, gran and granddad over and cover expenses as no one should have to worry about money at a time like this.”

In response, Claire kickstarted a fundraiser to try and help Andy, a self-employed taxi driver, and Karen, a charity worker, pay for additional flights and cover living costs while the family are in America.

Claire, a registered nurse, set up a JustGiving page three weeks ago, which has garnered £6,158 from 350 kindhearted contributors.

She said: “I thought because Caleb’s dad is self employed how are they going to manage with the costs of child care and no sick pay.

“It’s to support the family because there’s no income.”

On Saturday night (April 6), Claire and three others went out collecting money with buckets in Glasgow city centre, which raised £258 and left her emotional at the public’s kind response.

She said: “We put hi-vis vests on and printed off a logo for our fundraising.

“When people were giving us £10 and £20 notes we were actually crying.

“That was amazing, everybody’s been so lovely and generous.”

Claire, 36, originally set the fundraising target at £1,000, but that figure has since been smashed and is continuing to rise.

She said: “It started plateauing around £4,000 but in the last few days it’s gone crazy.

“We’ve got a lot of businesses within Clydebank that are helping raise money as well.

“We’re trying to organise a fundraiser night and we’ve been offered a venue so we’ll try and get that organised over the coming weeks - every little bit helps.”

Since Caleb’s chemotherapy began, his health has deteriorated at times and he’s only been home twice in the last month.

Claire said: “He’s had high temperatures, his platelets and hemoglobin keep dropping.

“He’s also lost all his hair now.

“The prognosis of the type of this cancer is poor so it’s essential we get the family over there together.

“We can’t have them split up.”

Claire, who has been fundraising tirelessly in her spare time, insisted the public help has been “overwhelming” and the family wouldn’t be able to make it to the US together otherwise.

She said: “It still doesn’t feel like we’re actually talking about a member of our family.

“We could never have imagined that we’d be in the position we’re at just now.

“We’re so grateful to everybody that’s donated and the family are so overwhelmed.

“Financially as a family we wouldn’t be able to support it so they’ve really made a difference - it means so much to us all.”

She added: “Even if people aren’t in a position to donate, even if they could share the fundraising page it would be most helpful.”

The fundraising page can be found at https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/caleb-stirrat