A charity holiday haven is gearing up for its first full year of bookings - and a raft of fundraising events to pay for them.

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Leah’s Lounge at Great Yarmouth’s Haven Seashore was set up following a supreme local effort and offers treat trips to families with a seriously ill child from all over the country.

The foundation was set up in memory of Leah Wilby who was committed to helping others despite the gravity of her own cancer plight.

She died aged 15, but her caring legacy has already provided crucial breaks for 13 families, some of whom have gone on to fundraise for the charity themselves.

Her mother Debbie Wilby, of Garrison Road, Great Yarmouth, said that being able to bring some joy to the lives of under-pressure families coping with a seriously ill child was a real comfort to the whole family.

But with annual fees of £4500 just to keep the caravan open they were always on the lookout for new ways to raise money with weekly car boots, parachute jumps and regular events helping to balance the books.

Having ruled out the possibility of taking on two caravans because of the on-going costs involved the family hopes to raise enough to replace Leah’s Lounge with an upgraded unit in the next few years.

The highlight of this year’s programme is likely to be a glamorous ball on July 13, around the time Leah would have celebrated her 18th birthday. It will be staged at Yarmouth Racecourse and companies including Sidegate Motors are already donating good auction prizes to help the appeal.

Before that on March 1 five clairvoyants will follow the speed dating format for an evening of speed readings held at the Priory Centre in Great Yarmouth. The evening will begin with a 45 minute demonstration and then groups of 10 people will visit each medium giving everyone a good chance of having their own reading. Tickets £10, limited to 50.

On March 14 Leah’s school chum Dylan Wilson, 17, and now a pupil at Easton College will take part in a rowing, cycling and running challenge at The Forum, Norwich, travelling the distance from London to Lille. He will be joined by four others who are raising money for Help For Heroes, although his sponsorship will be handed to the Leah Wilby Foundation which now has its own just giving page.

Then on July 21 volunteers are needed for a multiple tandem skydive at Beccles. There is availability for up to 20 people to take part in return for at least £300 sponsorship.

In September a cars, crafts and family fun day is being staged at Yarmouth Racecourse. Meanwhile bookings are already being taken for a Christmas craft fayre in Hemsby in November.

“We have a busy year again,” said Debbie. “We have had really good feedback from all our families. We had one family from London with a two-year-old who has an inoperable brain tumour and they are now raising money for us too. We open again at Easter and already have three bookings and a returner from last year so we must be doing something right.”

Mrs Wilby is also keen to hear from attractions that can offer free or discounted tickets to families staying at Leah’s Lounge.

Contact her through the website at www.theleahwilbyfoundation.co.uk or at home on 01493 309853.

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