The people of Haverhill help make a dying mum’s wish come true

Claire Downes with her children, Jack and Katie
Claire Downes with her children, Jack and Katie
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A heart-warming community effort has ensured that the wishes of a dying mum will be met, and that her two children will go to Disneyland Paris.

Claire Downes, who lived in Gannet Close in Haverhill, was being treated for Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of cancer, when she told her children Jack, ten, and Katie, seven, that they would go to the Disney resort once she was better.

Heartbreakingly, this never happened as the 40-year-old old died at Addenbrooke’s Hospital on July 12 last year, a little more than six months after being diagnosed.

Now though, the collective efforts of a number of Claire’s friends has resulted in £6,125 being raised to make sure Jack and Katie will go to Paris after all.

Claire’s parents Joe and Diane Downes live in Chalkstone Way, Haverhill.

Joe said: “All of this stuff that Claire (Morton) and Paul (Firman) have done is purely for the kids, all because she said ‘once mummy gets better we are all going to go to Disneyland’ and it never happened, so the girls all knew about this and said, ‘we can take the kids to Disneyland and we are going to pay for it.

“They’ve got lots and lots of friends in this town.

“I’ve known all the girls for a long time.

“They used to come round here at 15/16 years-of-age and stay and get ready for parties. “I know all of their parents, it’s just one big family. Everyone was devastated at what happened.

“We think they’ve done to much for us to tell you the truth.

“It’s been well appreciated.

“It’s made a lot of people feel good because they know what we are going through and what Claire went through.

“At the end of the day we can’t express our appreciation enough.”

Claire Morton, one of Claire’s closest friends, and Paul Firman organised a recent gig at Haverhill Arts Centre by UB40 tribute band, Rats in the Kitchen.

DJ’s Alex Webb, Paul Grocott and Paul Trinder, all played for free on the night.

Claire (Downes) was often at the regular charity music nights staged by Mr Firman at the arts centre and Rats in the Kitchen was her favourite band of those that played.

That night raised £3,000, while a donation page set up by Sarah Egan netted £1,170, of which £880 came from an Elvis afternoon at The Woolpack pub in Haverhill and a further £1,425 was raised at a quiz night organised at The Royal Exchange pub in Haverhill by Kate Miles.

Claire went to Westfield Primary and Samuel Ward Upper Schools in Haverhill and worked at IFF and then at Lloyds Bank in town before becoming a full-time mum.

The tragedy has meant Jack, who has autism and attends Hillside Special School in Sudbury and Katie, had to move in with Joe and Diane, although they still regularly see their dad, Dave, Claire’s ex-partner.

Joe spoke of the impact on the children of their mum’s passing, saying: “Jack knows his mum has gone because at times he gets sad and starts crying and we’ve never known him to cry before.

“Katie talks about it now. At times she gets upset.

“She has had to grow up a lot in the past year or so.”