A TAMWORTH florist is helping ensure the memory of a six-year-old boy who died from cancer will live on forever in the hearts of his local community.
Every fortnight, at her flower stall in Ankerside Shopping Centre, Taylor Brown creates floral arrangements for Julia and Wayne Mellors to put on the grave of their son Oliver.
Along with her mum and business partner Carol, Taylor also collects for the Lymphoma Research Trust, which Oliver‘s parents have supported since the Hockley youngster, a pupil at Hanbury’s Farm Primary School, lost his battle with non Hodgkins B cell lymphoma in April 2009.
Taylor also makes special floral arrangements to mark significant dates such as Oliver’s birthday, family celebrations, Christmas, and the anniversary of his death. And this summer when Wayne and Julia married, Taylor and her mum were asked to supply the wedding flowers.
Carol said: “Their wedding was a lovely day and we were thrilled to be involved. Over the years we have got to know Julia and Wayne quite well.
“For special occasions Taylor really takes care to design something vibrant that she feels Oliver would like. His parents tell us the sort of things that would have appealed to him and she then gets to work on
creating the design from scratch.
“While I run the business and administrative side of things here at Ankerside, Taylor is the professional florist. She loves to create new and different arrangements.”
So far Taylor’s designs for Oliver have included a floral snowman, a gnome, a car, a Santa Claus and a football.
A collection box at the flower stall, Mrs Brown’s Flowers, takes donations for the Lymphoma Research Trust.
Julia, who with her husband runs Tamworth security company Central & County Closed Circuit, said: “Some successful research has been done into lymphoma so there is a perception that people tend to recover from it, but so much more is needed. There are still very aggressive types of lymphoma, including the one Oliver had. We desperately need to find a cure to help save other children like him.”
Julia and Wayne, who now have a 21-month-old son, Jacob, have also set up an online fundraising site in Oliver’s memory www.justgiving.com/olivermellors which has raised more than £12,000.
Julia said: “I am always surprised to see donations from organisations and individuals who we don’t know personally but who have given to the cause. They just go onto the page and donate or give the proceeds of fundraising events they have held. Some people leave a message, others donate anonymously. We are so grateful to everyone who supports us.”
On the page she describes Oliver as a “a courageous little boy always laughing always the joker, never let his illness get him down and yet had such time and patience for many people, didn’t suffer fools easily and knew exactly what he wanted in his life, fun, laughter and even tears he did it all and now we find ourselves without the most precious person in our lives.”
Mrs Brown’s Flowers has been based at Ankerside shopping centre for 23 years, though Carol and Taylor did not take over the company until 2008.
Carol said: “Amazingly the man who ran it before us was also called Brown, so we didn’t even have to change the name. We love it here and feel a part of the local community. That‘s why we like to help with local charitable causes, to give back something to the people who support us.”
They are also dedicated supporters of STEPS, Conductive Education Centre, a specialist nursery and charity for children with motor disorders and their families, and have a second collection box at their Ankerside Shopping Centre flower stall.
Carol explained: “My lovely 16 months old grandson, Isaac, attends the centre and it has been an enormous help for him. Away from the shop we have also helped with other fundraising events for it, including a social evening which raised more than £1,000. I cannot stress enough what an invaluable centre it is for children like Isaac, with Down’s Syndrome and other similar disorders.”
Carol, who lives with husband Tony in Amington, regularly organises raffles to help boost funds for both charities. A recent one to win a teddy bear raised £100 and was won by a customer whose wife had just given birth to a baby.
“It was like he was meant to win it,” said Carol. “We were thrilled for them. Our customers are very generous – even if they are not buying flowers, many people – including our fellow Ankerside retailers – will pop in to buy a ticket when we have a raffle. Customers will also freely put their spare change into our two charity boxes. We have collected several hundreds of pounds over the years since we took over here.”
Isaac is the son of Mrs Brown’s son, David and his wife Joanne, who live in Derbyshire. The STEPS centre (www.stepscentre.org.uk), based in Loughborough, was started in 1994 and is now recognised as one of the leading organisations of its type, helping children with motor disorders lead fuller, more active lives.
Ankerside Shopping Centre, open daily, is home to 60 stores, from fashion, health and beauty to services and food and drink, and has more than 700 parking spaces. More details at www.ankerside.co.uk