Rays of Sunshine is pleased to announce the appointment of Nina Bradburn as the latest member of the charity’s Executive Committee. Nina’s role will be to represent the charity at events and most importantly, be a voice of influence to the Committee from a wish parent’s perspective.
We asked Nina what it means to join the Executive Committee and how her journey with Rays of Sunshine began. This is what she told us…
A: I first heard about Rays of Sunshine in 2009, but didn’t really know fully what the charity did. My daughter, Olivia, was invited to cut the ribbon at the opening of the new Rays of Sunshine Ward at Kings College Hospital, where she is treated for her post-liver transplant and Biliary Atresia, a rare disease of the liver. Unknown to me, Rays of Sunshine had granted a Hospital Ward Wish to the Paediatric Liver Centre there. Thanks to the charity, the children now have a bright, comfortable and spacious ward to stay in, with facilities that make the many days spent in hospital more bearable. The environment now truly reflects the incredible quality of care provided by the team there.
It wasn’t until Olivia was an inpatient at Kings in 2011 though, that I became more aware of what Rays of Sunshine did. A Play Specialist working in the ward asked whether Olivia had ever had a wish granted by Rays of Sunshine. I’d never heard of such a thing and the application form she gave me sat with us for some months before Olivia and I talked properly about what her wish would be, and until I had the emotional stamina to complete the form. Olivia’s wish was to meet ‘Winter,’ the dolphin from the movie Dolphin Tale and in May 2014, her wish came true.
The attention to detail, making the wish personal to Olivia, was so incredible and the experience we had as a family during Olivia’s wish made us forget the real reason behind why we were there.
Q: How has the charity impacted your life?
A: Prior to Olivia’s wish, she was asked to join the Rays of Sunshine Children’s Choir and recorded ‘Bring me Sunshine’ at Abbey Road Studios. On recording day, I met the most inspiring group of children I have ever met and witnessed Rays of Sunshine at its absolute best. I was moved by the children I met that day and felt extremely emotional watching them having fun together and forgetting about their illnesses.
It’s very hard to have a child whose life is like a rollercoaster health-wise. Your mood and stress levels are constantly dictated by how your child is feeling and how well they are. That’s just how life is for most wish families, but we somehow find a way to deal with it. The influence Rays of Sunshine has on children really cannot be underestimated. As a mother and carer of a child with life-long health issues, I have seen how the events they have involved Olivia in, especially after her time in Hospital, have positively impacted her recovery. The smiles, the laughter, and the fun times with other wish children she’s met over the years; these moments have been a tonic to Olivia and our entire family and we cannot thank the charity enough.
I’ve come to call this ‘The Rays Effect’. I don’t believe there is any other charity that touches children’s lives in the way they do, and the positive impact they’ve had on my family has inspired me to raise money in ways I never thought possible. Olivia and the wish children put the word ‘impossible’ into perspective. Just when I think I have no more motivation, something else happens to Olivia or I meet another wish child and I’m suddenly determined to get fundraising again. The kids make me painfully aware that every day is a gift and life is for living!
Q: What does it mean to you to be invited to join the Executive Committee?
A: My favourite colour has always been yellow; I grew up in the Bahamas and have always called myself a ‘sunshine girl’. When Olivia was born we played ‘Here comes the Sun’ by the Beatles! So, when Rays of Sunshine came in to our lives, I couldn’t help but feel that we were meant to find each other. I do believe everything happens for a reason and because of Olivia’s situation, our paths have crossed. My background is in sales and the success I’ve had winning new business and managing large accounts has helped me raise more than £70,000 for charities since Olivia was born. I’ve also worked with children in a nursery setting and as a Learning Support Assistant in a primary school, helping make a positive impact many children’s development.
When the Rays of Sunshine team asked me to join their Executive Committee, I felt extremely overwhelmed and honoured. If I’m honest, I also felt massively daunted and slightly under qualified to be joining such an incredible group of successful individuals. I have always been hugely passionate about Rays of Sunshine though, and I feel like my own wish has now been granted. To have the team’s confidence that I can help them in some way to achieve their goals is really humbling and very exciting.
Being a part of the Executive Committee will allow me to have a more official and credible platform from which to promote the amazing work the charity does. To be involved with Rays of Sunshine combines all the things I enjoy and I can’t wait to help the charity fulfil its goal to grant a wish to every child in the UK living with a life-limiting illness.
Q: What is your favourite part about volunteering with Rays of Sunshine?
A: It’s hard to answer this question when there are so many things that I love about being involved with Rays of Sunshine. I’d say my favourite thing would have to be what made me passionate about them in the first place and that’s the incredible effect they have on the children. I love seeing the genuine fun they have, not just during their wish, but also at the events they get invited to. Being a wish child is to become part of the Rays of Sunshine family and we have felt this from the start. You can sense the escapism that the children and parents experience at events when they’re so lost in the moment that they totally forget about their illnesses. The care and love you feel from the Rays of Sunshine team is something very special.
The other thing I absolutely love, is being able to talk to a room full of children or employees about the work Rays of Sunshine does and the impact it has had on our family and other wish children. I love leaving them feeling as passionate and moved about the charity as I am.
Q: Tell us about a memorable moment with the charity that’s stuck out to you?
A: My personal memorable moment was running the London Marathon for Rays of Sunshine in 2014. I wasn’t meant to be running anymore marathons, but after meeting some wish kids at Abbey Road Studios, I was inspired to run another marathon to raise money for the charity. I had my nails painted with Rays of Sunshine suns on them and wore my yellow tutu. On the day of the race, the sun was shining, the atmosphere at the start was electrifying and everything just felt good! I even got to meet my running hero, BBC’s Sophie Raworth, whilst I was waiting for the race to start. Best of all though, I had raised more than £9,000 to help grant wishes and that felt AMAZING! It turned out to be the best London marathon I have ever run.
The Rays of Sunshine team were so encouraging at the race cheering points. Nothing beats the high fives from the team and the memorable hug I received from Rays of Sunshine CEO, Jane Sharpe at mile 25. It was also so heart-warming to see my husband and kids about four times on the route and to top it all off, I got interviewed by Ore Oduba at Big Ben, giving me the chance to talk a little about why I was running for Rays of Sunshine. It was just a great day all around and I felt so proud to have raised so much money to help Rays of Sunshine grant more wishes.
Q: Tell us about a favourite Rays of Sunshine wish or event that you have been involved in.
A: Memories are what Rays of Sunshine is all about and I have a box full of them that I can recall… Watching my daughter Olivia singing at Abbey Road Studios, perform on stage at The Royal Albert Hall, sing with Take That, record ‘Bring Me Sunshine’ with Michael Ball and Alfie Boe, and meeting celebrities David Cameron and Dynamo!
Of course, my ultimate favourite family moment was Olivia’s wish to meet Winter. The incredible effort that the wish team put in to organise the entire week made me cry. The itinerary was so beautifully done and to have everything on the medical side organised for me, was just such a treat. Going away for us is always a logistical nightmare; it takes ages sorting travel insurance for all Olivia’s pre-existing conditions and we’ve often ended up either having to cancel going away or end up in hospital abroad. It’s a pretty stressful experience, so much so that we rarely go away. However, during Olivia’s wish, all the hassle was taken away and we could embrace and enjoy the experience from start to finish. It was unlike anything we had or will probably ever experience again. Fun and smiles every single minute of the day; truly magical!
From everyone here at Rays of Sunshine, we’re so excited to welcome Nina to the Executive Committee and can’t wait to see the charity grow with her on board! Watch this space.