Derby County favourite Craig Forsyth was given a special gift of ‘Hope’ at a glittering event celebrating the work of a much-loved charity of which he is patron – hearing how over 18 years it has helped 12,000 people through some of the toughest times imaginable.

Forsyth – fondly known to fans as ‘Fozzy’ – joined fellow Derby County footballer Martyn Waghorn at a special sponsors’ event held by memory-making Melbourne based charity me&dee at Pride Park.

Charity founder Maria Hanson MBE presented Fozzy with his very own ‘Hope’ – the charity’s hugely significant cuddly elephant whose ear stores a secret voice recorder that is used to record final messages from loved ones – often children – giving their families comfort after they have died.

Craig Forsyth, Maria Hanson MBE, Mark Harrison and Martyn Waghorn (photo Victoria Wilcox)

The charity me&dee is 18 years old this year and supports families where a potentially life-limiting illness has been diagnosed, helping them make memories together with a huge variety of help such as farm days out, cinema vouchers or hotel stays – offering support when there may be only days left.

Trustees, supporters, families, beneficiaries, Derby North MP Amanda Solloway and NHS staff joined charity patron Derby County player Craig Forsyth, along with Martyn Waghorn, and founder Maria Hanson MBE, to hear about me&dee’s incredible work supporting more than 7,000 families since starting in 2006.

As part of the evening, Craig – whose testimonial game in 2023 raised money for me&dee – was presented with his very own ‘Hope’ elephant, while two of me&dee’s children: quadruple amputee Taylor Lewis, and Mollie-Mae Keoghan, who is in recovery from Leukaemia, were made junior ambassadors, highlighting the charity’s vital work, while Zach Bowles was made the first member of the charity’s junior support squad team.

During the evening Kate Jackson and Caroline Dodd, bereavement nurses at University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust (UHDB) also spoke about the support me&dee has provided for bereaved families.

Craig Forsyth being presented with his own ‘Hope’

The charity has provided hand and feet casts to help families grieve for their children, as well as other bespoke support requested by nurses, such as soft blankets and thoughtful anniversary cards sent to families, created by Victoria Wilcox.

Kate told the sponsors’ room that the support from me&dee was invaluable, in providing additional support to families during a difficult time.

She said: “We had the privilege of being introduced to everybody at me&dee, and they completely understood our needs and wants.

“What we love about working with Maria is that when we have ideas, they are listened to and implemented straight away.

“As nurses, we can only imagine how difficult it is for families to walk away and leave their child or baby behind. We’re not able to remove a family’s pain and grief, but what we are able to offer with the support of me&dee is comfort and hopefully a positive care experience.”

Amanda Solloway MP told the room: “I have been such a supporter of me&dee for so long. This charity has such an incredibly positive impact on people’s lives. Without exception, lives are changed. I’m getting goosebumps thinking about the incredible work they do!”

As well as hearing from nurses, families and trustees, guests saw moving video footage showing the impact of me&dee’s work with many families with children suffering serious illnesses, being given comfort through the dark times.

As well as all its other work, me&dee also provides comfort packs in hospitals to help give distraction to all members of a family who are seriously unwell in hospital. 

Guests were also treated to an exclusive interview conducted by Derby County matchday announcer Matt McGibbon in which he quizzed Craig Forsyth and Martyn Waghorn about their lives in football, secrets from the changing room, and what their most memorable experiences have been.

Waghorn revealed that Derby County was the club where he had felt most “at home” and that he has always accidentally called Forsyth ‘Greg’! Hailing from Sunderland, he said his favourite musician had to be Jimmy Nail.

Forsyth confessed to being “not bothered” about music, and said he enjoyed playing golf and padel to relax, as well as spending time with his family.

Maria Hanson MBE said: “I’m so grateful to everyone who came along to our sponsors evening, and especially to Craig Forsyth and Martyn Waghorn who were a huge draw for football fans and were so generous with their time.

“I’m extremely proud of the work that me&dee has been able to do over the past 18 years, with a very small team. It shows that you can really make a difference to people’s lives.

“We’re always looking for more businesses to come on board and support our work. We promise that any company who joins the me&dee family will be welcomed with open arms, with whatever they can give. And you really will be making a difference, whether it’s by sponsoring our ‘Hope’ elephants, or by coming along to our ball, or joining a golf day. We really do value your support. Thank you.”

To find out more about how you can sponsor me&dee, see www.meanddee.co.uk

This story was written and shared on behalf of me&dee by Lucy Stephens. Can we share your news and get you in the headlines too? Find out how we can help by getting in touch.