A mum put her life on hold for almost a year to drive a £500,000 fundraising campaign to help her friend’s seriously little girl.
Anita Marinelli has been at Vikki Young’s side since the day Vikki’s daughter Ruby was diagnosed with the aggressive childhood cancer neuroblastoma.
However, the 33-year-old went above and beyond the actions of a friend by leading the bid to raise £500,000 for lifesaving treatment in the USA.
Astonishingly, the target has been reached in just 11 months.
The mum-of-two, who lives in Gillingham, said: “Whether Ruby beats this now is down to her own strength, but I made Vikki a promise that Ruby’s life would not be decided by money, and now it won’t be.
"Whether Ruby beats this now is down to her own strength, but I made Vikki a promise that Ruby’s life would not be decided by money, and now it won’t be." - Anita Marinelli
“I’ve been on a mission to get this done and I’m absolutely exhausted now, I just need to breathe and spend some time with my own children, doing normal things like reading bedtime stories and looking for a job, after putting training as a teaching assistant off to help Ruby.”
The Medway Messenger has now put forward Anita as the first nomination for the latest Pride in Medway campaign.
She said: “It’s surreal, I’ve never been one to take compliments to heart. It’s not just me, this couldn’t have happened without Team Ruby, all our supporters and everyone who has donated.”
Anita’s father Tony Whibley died last year from a cardiac arrest at the age of 53.
Helping Ruby became a distraction for Anita as she struggled to cope with her loss.
“I needed to do something to keep busy, and part of it then became something to achieve in memory of my dad as well,” she said. “It’s been a form of therapy. I know he would be proud, I just wish he was here to say it.”
“I knew I had to do something. How can anyone be expected to look after their ill child, and raise all this money at the same time?" - Anita Marinelli
During the last 11 months Anita has tackled everything from persuading people to donate regularly, to asking celebrities to tweet their support for Ruby to taking part in sponsored runs.
She said: “When I saw Ruby, it was the most terrible thing I’d ever seen.
“She’d lost half her hair, her arms were skinny and her stomach was swollen.
“I knew I had to do something. How can anyone be expected to look after their ill child, and raise all this money at the same time?
“I couldn’t even persuade Vikki to go out of the house after Ruby was diagnosed, let alone expect her to start asking people for money.
“Ruby has been so brave and she’s made me brave too.
“I’ve done things for her I would have always been too shy to ever do before, like give a speech to a thousand people.”
Ruby, three, from Rainham, is still in hospital recovering from her most recent high dose of chemotherapy and doctors are hoping she will be able to go home within 10 days.