Chippenham teenager to have close shave in aid of poorly schoolfriend

This Is Wiltshire: Tommy Burroughs, centre, gears up for today's close shave with Sheldon Schoool friends Ed Collins, left, Luke Jacomb, Inoke Dobui, Jake Gibbs and Will Flay Tommy Burroughs, centre, gears up for today's close shave with Sheldon Schoool friends Ed Collins, left, Luke Jacomb, Inoke Dobui, Jake Gibbs and Will Flay

Leukaemia sufferer Ben Connolly’s close friend has raised nearly £2,000 to help him.

Ben, 16, a pupil at Sheldon School in Chippenham, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia a week before his birthday in October.

Days after he woke up from routine surgery unable to feel his body from his ribs down. A neurosurgeon at once removed a malignant tumour pressing on his spine, picked up by an MRI scan.

Ben’s schoolfriends have been inspired by his remarkable positivity and determination.

Classmate Tommy Burroughs, 15, set to work straight away collecting for the Teenage Cancer Trust and has given a presentation to every year group to help them understand Ben’s plight.

Today he is hoping to lift donations to £3,000 when he gets all his hair shaved off on the school stage.

His dad, Nick, said: “Ben has lost his hair through the chemo and Tommy is shaving his off as a way of showing he cares. The reaction at Sheldon has been one of shock. They don’t feel quite as lost if they’re doing something.”

Tommy, who will be sitting his GCSEs next year, said: “Ben’s such a good guy. After he wasn’t there in the classroom you could see how much the room wasn’t as lit up.

“He turned 16 in hospital but he’s postponing his birthday celebration until he gets out. He’s extremely optimistic; I think he’s incredible.”

Ben’s mum, Suzi Conolly, 46, said: “Ben’s dad Sam and I are touched by Tommy’s actions and the money he has raised in such a short period of time.

"Ben feels very blessed to have someone in his life that is prepared to go to such lengths in support of his condition and for such a great cause.”

Ben, a fan of downhill mountain biking and motorsport, is still at the Bristol Royal Hospital for Children. He is about to move to the spinal treatment centre at Salisbury for three months of rehabilitation to develop new life skills while also continuing chemotherapy.

Mrs Conolly said: “He’s dealing with what he’s been dealt with very well. It is one big battle for a 16-year-old to be faced with.

“We are all being strong and none of us are giving up hope. He will get his legs back.”

Ben will be returning to BRHC over the next 39 months to continue treatment for leukaemia. A new £2.5m specialist cancer unit for young people in the southwest will be the first of its kind when it opens there early in the new year, funded by the Teenage Cancer Trust.

Money raised by Tommy will be split between the Trust and Ben to help with adaptations to his home.

His fundraising page is www.uk.virginmoneygiving .com/BenConollyAppeal

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