Paramedic father turns loss of eldest son to leukemia into inspiring fundraising effort

  • ITV News Meridian's James Dunham spoke to Ben Relf about Finley's touch

The devastating loss of his son to a rare form of leukaemia floored Sussex paramedic Ben Relf.

What's emerged from the awful tragedy is a truly inspiring fundraising effort to improve the lives for other sick children and their families.

Ben's eldest Finley endured gruelling hospital treatment, including three stem cell operations, and was a brave fighter right up until his death in December 2021.

"It demolished us, it floored us, thankfully Jacob, our youngest son, kept us going and got us out of bed each morning", said Ben.

"We needed to do something in Finley's memory to use some of his happiness and his energy and strength to help keep us going through those incredibly hard times."

Ben Relf handing over the hospital survival kits Credit: ITV Meridian

From the darkness of grief came the idea to start a charity in Finley's name and so Finley's Touch was born.

In just over a year around £80,000 has been raised which Ben, with the support of his wife and fellow paramedic Nicky, have used to create hospital survival bags.

The giant sacks contain goodies and treats for children like toys, playing cards and the symbol of the charity, a giant rubber chicken.

Why a giant rubber chicken? It was Finley's favourite toy in hospital which he secretly bought using his parents' bank card.

The honking rubber chicken is a key part of the chart and symbolises Finley's favourite toy Credit: ITV Meridian

Also inside the coloured bags, decorated in the Jackson Pollock-esque paint splatter artwork created by Finley, is coffee and a gift card for people to buy themselves a gift.

Paediatric oncology nurse Kat Horniblow said, "It's lovely, absolutely lovely, the children are straight rooting through the bags. While the parents are like 'great, practical stuff', with hand moisturiser and coffee. Everybody takes something different from it."

Amanda Walton's son Lucas was among the first people to receive one of the hospital survival kits.

She is in total admiration of Ben, "It's the unthinkable what's happened and to channel that emotion and grief and put it into something that helps others is truly incredible."

The charity has also handed out £20,000 in grants to families at the Royal Alexandra hospital in Brighton and London's Great Ormond Street, with money used to help people who may be out of work if they're spending lots of time in hospital looking after their sick children.

Ben's tallest challenge so far was completing the three peaks challenge with his friends Credit: Ben Relf

Ben's tallest fundraising effort so far was climbing 10,000 feet with his friends to the tops of three highest mountains in England, Scotland and Wales.

With eye-catching outfits...including a rubber chicken outfit...and a cricket match at the peak of Ben Nevis, Ben managed to collect lots of donations on the way.

Ben's friend Dan Wyatt said, "How he finds the energy to start this charity and now keep it running alongside his busy career and Nicky's busy career is phenomenal."

Ben hopes to expand Finley's touch so the hospital survival kits and grants can help many more families.

Ben is one of ITV News Meridian's finalists in our search for the South East's fundraiser of the year as part of the Daily Mirror Pride of Britain Awards.

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