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Mums host fundraising picnic for Tunbridge Wells teen's urgent 50k surgery

By Jennifer Steadman

A group of Tunbridge Wells mums are teaming up to raise money for a local teenager's lifesaving surgery – which is not currently available in the UK – by hosting the ‘Big Picnic' in Calverley Grounds.

£33,000 has already been raised towards vital surgery for Grace Jackson-Matthew, 14, who has a combination of rare conditions which crush her arteries and prevent her from eating, leading to her losing four stone in the last year.

But a further £17,000 is needed quickly, as Grace’s health worsens and the need for surgery becomes more urgent.

Skin therapist Louise Phillips heard about Grace’s plight through a Facebook link, and donated to the fundraiser. But despite not knowing the teen, she wanted to do more, and teamed up with local friends – including a mutual friend of Grace’s family – to organise the Big Picnic and raise more money for the cause.

She said: “It really struck a chord with me. I’ve got a daughter of a similar age, and I just thought how desperate Grace’s mum must be, and how awful it must be to see your daughter like that every single day.”

In the run-up to the event, the mum of two has been in regular contact with Grace's mum Joanna via text, receiving updates on Grace’s condition. The family are currently in Ireland as Grace receives specialist care.

She is no longer able to eat due to the intensity of pain that it causes, and has this week had a feeding tube inserted into her stomach.

Big Picnic co-organiser Louise Phillips, who is raising money for Grace Jackson-Matthew's critical surgery
Big Picnic co-organiser Louise Phillips, who is raising money for Grace Jackson-Matthew's critical surgery

With the stakes high, Louise is hopeful of getting 200 attendees at the Big Picnic.

The event, which has been promoted through social media and flyers in the local community, will run from noon to 3pm on Sunday, July 14. There will be a local henna tattooist, balloon artist, face painting and a sweet stall on offer for those that come along.

All that’s needed is a £5 donation – all proceeds of which will go towards Grace’s fundraiser – and for participants to bring their own picnic.

It was initially to be held on Sunday 16th June, but this was postponed due to ongoing poor weather.

Donate to Grace Jackson-Matthew's life-saving surgery here.

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