Pirate Day Sets Sail for Harry Mills
by Dane Cobain at May 24, 2016
Avast, shipmates! If you’ve been aboard the good ship fst in the last couple of years then you’ve probably heard of Pirate Day – our annual fundraiser in aid of the Harry Mills fund.
Harry was the younger brother of former fst account handler Jenny Mills, and the Mills family used to live next door to Super Mark. When Harry’s life was cut tragically short at the age of 11 back in 2007, we knew we had to do something to make a difference.
And so Pirate Day was born, and for the last five years, we’ve flooded Marlow High Street with fancy dress and flocked to the bridge and the local shops to raise money in Harry’s memory.
But our days of plundering the high street and sailing the seven seas are over – Pirate Day has helped to achieve a major milestone, and it’s time for us to lay down our cutlasses and sail off into the sunset.
We caught up with Richard and Judi Mills – Harry’s parents and the brains behind the Harry Mills Trust – to find out what Pirate Day helped to achieve. Read on to find out more…
What was the original aim of Pirate Day and the Harry Mills Fund?
Judi: We raise money through the Harry Mills website for a number of charities, including the Youth Sports Trust, Meningitis Research, Meningitis Now and Child Bereavement. Meningitis Research was hoping to develop a vaccine. Harry died from Meningitis B, which has a number of different strains. It’s a bit like the common cold – it changes and mutates, so it’s difficult to create a vaccine. But they’ve now found one that works against ten of the strains, and they’re offering free vaccinations to babies and university students. Harry had had the Meningitis C vaccine, but at the time there was no vaccine available for Meningitis B.
What were the main challenges that you faced?
Richard: The problem with meningitis is that it’s difficult to detect. With Harry, we thought he just had a bug, and by the time that we realised what it was, it was already too late. The most effective way to combat it isn’t to cure it – it’s to create a vaccine to stop it from becoming a problem in the first place. In that sense, the objective of the Meningitis Research Foundation is to do themselves out of a job. The current vaccine is effective for about 70-80% of cases, but they’re still working on improving it.
What inspired you to start fundraising?
Judi: Harry had so many friends, and he was well known in the local community. His death was a real shock, and people wanted to do something. We didn’t plan to fundraise, but people started raising money on their own and so we realised that we needed to do something with it.
How much money have you raised?
Richard: Over £120,000 overall, but as Judi said – we didn’t fly the flag on this. Harry was the catalyst, and we just helped it to happen. Out of that, fst and Pirate Day have raised about £8,000 over the last five years.
What’s been your proudest moment so far?
Richard: I think that the vaccine itself was a big event for me. The fact that there’s now a vaccine is fantastic because all of the people who raised money can see the results. We don’t know whose lives it’ll save, but it’ll save the lives of children and their children’s children. It’s an investment in the future.
Judi: I can’t pick just one thing – overall, I’m just very proud to be Harry’s mum. He engendered such a positive response from everyone – he brought everyone together and led to incredible results.
Have you achieved your goal?
Richard: I don’t think it’ll ever end for us – Harry’s always going to be there, of course. I don’t think we can ever draw a line and just say ‘that’s it’. People are always going to raise money and, if they do, we’re always happy to support them.
Judi: That said, I’d hate for people to think they have to fundraise. If people want to do it then that’s fantastic, but equally we don’t want people to think, ‘We have to do this or we’re going to upset people.’
Marlow Pirate Day is over, but the results that it helped to create will live on forever in the vaccinations that take place every day across the country. We’d like to extend a huge thanks of our own to everyone who’s been involved over the years, from our pirate volunteers to the people who donated money to help make a difference.
Pirate Day is dedicated to the memory of Harry Mills and to the efforts of the Harry Mills Trust. Click here to find out more or to make a donation.