Two young people are embodying the spirit of Scouts by helping and supporting each other through thick and thin
Before he was old enough to join Beaver Scouts, Archie already believed he was part of ‘Clubs’, as he called it. When accompanying his mum to drop off his older brother at First Luton Sea Cubs, he would race to join the Pack, where Andrew, a Young Leader of the Group, welcomed him to chat and play games with everyone before and after meetings.
At the time, Archie was 4 and Andrew 14, but the boys seemed to share a bond right away. Joanne, Archie’s mum, thinks this is partly because Andrew treated him just like all the other young people, and saw beyond Archie’s lymphedema, a terminal condition he was born with.
Characterized by swelling in the arms and legs, lymphedema is caused by a build up of lymph fluids in the limbs that requires Archie to wear tight-fitting compression garments to quell the swelling. The condition can cause great pain, frustration and fatigue, and because Archie can’t walk long distances, he occasionally needs to use a wheelchair.
But meeting Archie, he doesn’t seem much concerned with his own troubles. His outward-looking zest for life is expressed through his buzzing curiosity and kindness towards others.
A meeting of minds
This kindness came to the fore two years after the boys first met. When Andrew was selected to attend this year’s World Scout Jamboree in America, Archie heard that Andrew would need to raise £3,900 in order to get to there. Archie decided he would fundraise too. He and his mum got plotting. They would organise ‘Jump for the Jamboree’, a fundraising event where Archie would challenge himself to an evening of trampolining with fellow Scouts. Although very good for lymphedema, trampolining can be painful for those with the condition. They set up a Just Giving page to create awareness about the event and to raise funds.
When the page went live, it went wild. It was shared between friends, family, Scouts, teachers and doctors. Donations poured in. Jo had the page set up on her phone and just kept going notifications – ‘ping ping ping’. Wendy, Andrew’s mum, says one of the most heartwarming parts of the page were all the supportive comments. ‘Really lovely stuff,’ she says, ‘obviously mostly for Archie but then a few were people saying “Thank you to Andrew for looking after and helping Archie and to Archie for helping Andrew.” It was fantastic.’
In next to no time they raised £900. When Jo and Archie first explained how they wanted to help, Wendy and Andrew were overwhelmed with gratitude. ‘I cried’, said Wendy.
It was snowing on the day of the Jump, and the two families, their Cub Leader and Andrew’s fellow Young Leaders ploughed through the icy weather to the ghostly, deserted trampoline park. ‘We were the only people stupid enough to be there in that weather,’ Jo laughs. But they were all committed to showing their support for Archie and Andrew. Wendy brought Archie a huge chocolate cake she’d baked to say thank you, so after the Jump the team tucked in.
Archie was so pleased with the result of the fundraising, he decided to write a letter to The Queen to tell her all about it. He invited her to come and watch him be invested (when a commitment is made to Scouts by reading out the Scouts Promise) and signed it off, ‘Archie, age 6’.
The Queen’s office replied, apologising for Her Majesty not being able to make it to his investiture, but nevertheless congratulating him on his fundraising efforts, adding how glad she was that he enjoyed Scouts.
Pay it forward
Andrew and his parents tried hard to persuade Archie and Jo to let them split the money so it could go to Archie too, but they wouldn’t do it, says Wendy, ‘They were too kind.’ To show their gratitude, Andrew’s family would like to raise money for lymphedema awareness at their next annual fundraising charity event.
As lymphedema is fairly rare, particularly being born with it, Jo says there’s not a huge amount of awareness. But within Scouts Archie is welcomed and supported, and when necessary they adapt activities so he can still take part. As a Beaver at Sea Scouts, Archie says, ‘We go in the river, we do boats, we play games and we have floaties.’ ‘Buoyancy aids’, his mum adds.
Because raising money for the Jamboree is no small feat, Andrew has been working hard. They raised a bit over last year’s Easter egg hunt and a bit more at a Jamboree-themed activity day, where local Scouts paid to to take part in various activities.
When Andrew was first selected for the Jamboree, knowing how much they’d need to raise, his mum says their reaction was: ‘ooof, my goodness. As a family we worked out how much we needed to raise per day or per week, and realised: that’s a lot of money. There were lots of fundraising plans but even though you raise money there’s still so much more to do, so when this came from Jo and Archie, it was such a surprise. I feel really humbled.’
Friends for life
But the relationship between Archie and Andrew seems to have been mutually beneficial. Andrew has been a source of great mentorship and support for Archie. When asked his favourite thing about Andrew, Archie shrugged his shoulder and said simply, ‘Well, he plays with me,’ but his admiration shows in the way he’s always looking up to Andrew, telling him stories, smiling and laughing at his jokes. Jo says Archie ‘thinks the world of Andrew… He sees beyond the disability and lets him be a normal child.’ But Andrew thinks of him as more than a normal child; his favourite thing about Archie is just ‘how kind he is’, ‘and how funny’, he adds.
Andrew goes on to say that he thinks younger people ‘gravitate towards people who are a bit older but not fully grown up because they find it easier to talk to them and have fun.’ He says that growing up, Young Leaders made a really positive impact on his life too. Jo says, ‘It’s nice for the little ones to have the bigger children that aren’t adult leaders to look up to and see where they can be, if they work hard.’
Although Andrew seems to be a natural with young people, he credits this ability to being in Scouts and completing the Young Leader training, where he learnt about equality, diversity and how to deal with various issues young people might face. ‘Because kids feel like they can talk to you more I think they open up to you more,’ he says, ‘So they might open up about things that they wouldn’t tell an adult leader, things that could be problems, and the training shows how you can deal with those things.’
He says when he was Archie’s age, there were younger adults and leaders he looked up to but at the same time, he ‘also wanted to be them’. Today, he is one of them, with Archie looking up to him. Andrew says that as a leader today, ‘You kind of try to live up to what you wanted to be when you were younger.’
As Andrew talks about when he first joined First Luton, Archie sidles over to sit next to him on the sofa. He says he didn’t know anyone at first, but ‘with Scouts, it’s like a second family, everyone accepts you. It doesn’t matter who you are, you’ll make friends.’ He looks at Archie beside him and says, ‘Do you want to budge up a bit so you’re not falling off?’ Archie moves up. Andrew nods: ‘There you go.’
Words: Jacqueline Landey Scouting Magazine
There is a little more to add to Archie and Andrew’s story now.
Andrew’s mum Wendy told us recently: “We said last year that we hoped to thank Archie by raising money for his charity at some point in the future. We organise a charity Easter Treasure Hunt every year on Good Friday, and Andrew finally got the chance to thank Archie for his help by inviting him and his family to choose the charity for this year’s event”
She went on to explain that Archie’s family chose the Luton & Dunstable Hospital Helipad Appeal as a special thank you to Dr Michael Eisenhut, Consultant Pediatrician, and all the medical team who have supported Archie since he was three months old. As Dr Eisenhut is a big supporter of the Helipad Appeal, it seemed like the perfect way to show their appreciation.
Wendy said, “We are thrilled to announce that the total raised for Archie’s charity, the Luton &Dunstable Hospital Helipad Appeal was £500. Jo, Archie’s Mum is trying to arrange for us all to go along to the hospital to present the cheque. Archie and Andrew’s friendship through Scouting continues; one good turn certainly deserves another”
Words by Wendy Wilmer (Mother)