To inspire schools to take up more sport, as well as improve vital allergy education, the Sadie Bristow Foundation was set up as legacy to Sadie, who tragically died of an extreme allergic reaction. Here's Sadie's story
August 20th 2018 was a supposed to be a special day for our family (a birthday picnic for my Niece April) but it soon turned into a nightmare. At around 11am Sadie, as usual, ate before everyone else to reduce the risk of food contamination as she had severe allergies to products such as Dairy and Nuts. Soon after however she complained that she was having trouble breathing, her tongue was tingling and her face was starting to swell.
We gave her Antihistamine plus her Epipen and took her to the nearest drop in medical centre. Throughout the journey her symptoms grew worse and the medical staff advised us that she needed more specialist treatment so she was flown by air ambulance up to St George’s Hospital in London.
Sadly, Sadie had suffered an extreme allergic reaction (Anaphylaxis) and tragically died. She was 9 years old. To this day we still don’t know exactly what triggered the Anaphylaxis episode, despite all the tests she’d had to determine what she was at risk of, our family’s efforts to minimise her exposure to such things as cow’s milk, and checking and double checking every label on every piece of food we bought.
Devastation is not a descriptive enough word to describe how my Sister, Brother in law Stewart, Sadie’s sister Charlotte and the rest of our family felt over the coming weeks and months and even to this day. We decided to build her a legacy.
You see, Sadie was a seriously talented individual, highly determined and unlike any other primary school-aged child I’ve ever come across. She had the power to make people laugh, from giggles to fits of laughter. An infectious joy that she spread wherever she went.
She had bundles of energy and compassion for others. Sadie was also the UK’s #1 ranked U9 Tennis player and on a pathway to Andy Murray level success there is no doubt. Not that she bragged about it. Despite being hugely ambitious and hardworking, Sadie was also extremely modest. She adored playing tennis, spending her weekends on the tennis courts or at tournaments, and played as much for the enjoyment of the game as for winning. Sadie was the kind of person who would check that her opponent was as ready to play as she was. She liked tournaments and matches to be as fun and enjoyable as possible.
In total she won over 40 tournaments in 2018, represented the Kent County Cup Team in the summer of 2018, was a keen skier capable of covering over 80kms a day with her Dad Stewart and had a unique ability to encourage and care for others.
So Clare (Sadie’s mum), Stewart (Sadie’s Dad), myself (Sadie’s Uncle), my Father (Sadie’s Grandfather Ken) and a number of other family members and friends decided to set up The Sadie Bristow Foundation.
The charity has been founded to continue Sadie’s legacy by inspiring children to participate in sports and discover their true talents through our Tennis in Schools Programme.
We currently deliver The Tennis in Schools Programme (currently running in 2 Primary Schools in Kent, Bridge & Patrixbourne Primary and Chartham Primary) who receive a comprehensive tennis and athletics learning module, delivered in school hours as part of the PE curriculum.
We designed sessions that increase children’s athletic abilities along with sport-specific skills for Tennis. The fundamentals of agility, balance and coordination are at the forefront of our unique programme which we deliver as a daily activity that has been shown to improve well-being and concentration levels. These daily sessions fit into schools’ curriculums and enhance learning whilst delivering up to 15hrs a week of free tennis coaching. We enable participants to improve their confidence, and in turn, participation and competitiveness.
We are inspiring others through “Sadie’s Way” – a high athletic ability in Tennis supported by understanding and kindness.
So far the programme has taught over 600 children, over 1,000 if we include our summer camps, tennis marathons and Sadie’s days at Tennis clubs across the country. Our Facebook posts promoting our activities and spreading allergy awareness are getting 1000’s of impressions and 140 families have so far benefitted from our regular Allergy Support Clinic.
We’ve also formed a group of young ambassadors, who all knew Sadie well. Young people she played with and local University of Kent students. These Ambassadors support the Foundation’s activity both in terms of tennis coaching delivery, awareness and wider fundraising activities and we are also putting them on LTA courses over the coming years to develop their skills for the future.
The Foundation is also supported by former British Olympic Athlete, Michelle Robinson and former GB Tennis Player Naomi Cavaday who help us with our athletic programme, plus we are also supported by a growing network of tennis coaches and organisations such as the Lawn Tennis Association and Kent LTA.
We also improve access to specialist allergy nurses and of course spread knowledge about allergy awareness by educating the wider community and by providing information to schools, clubs and organisations to support further research into preventing allergies developing into anaphylactic conditions.
It took just one allergic reaction on that day out to take Sadie from all her knew her. We knew about her allergies and sat and fretted by her bedside as she suffered anaphylactic shock episodes from misplaced ice cream scoops, we’d researched, banged on doors and found specialists who could help.
The journey to finding the diagnosis and support for Sadie’s allergies was mentally exhausting and The Sadie Bristow Foundation wants to work to ensure that no other family should go through a similar process.
How can you help?
Fundraising is a vital part of what we do. Without the help and kindness of our family and friends, our trustees, and you, we can’t achieve our aims in getting more kids more active, building their confidence and continuing to raise awareness of the risks of food allergies.
We’re reliant on donations and fundraising to allow us to work towards our goals. Sadie gave her heart and soul to all she did and we’re looking for people who can take on that ethos to raising funds and supporting our Foundation.
To date we have raised a fantastic sum of money through various activities such as Sadie’s Days and through merchandise & information stands at local school fetes. We aim to increase that amount hugely through our team of runners in the Vitality 10k in London in 2020 and our Ski for Sadie event in France in January which could raise another, but like all other charities we need more so we can continue to make a change in young people’s lives.
You could have a Quiz or Bingo night, or make allergy free/free from cupcakes at your next Fireworks night or Summer Fete. If you have any Tennis players in your ranks their clubs could hold 'Sadie’s Days' where they inspire and create awareness with a Fun Day for the whole community or join us in running the Vitality 10k in London in May 2020, the possibilities are endless.
Plus, anyone that is as inspiring as Sadie was also gets the chance to play in our yearly Sadie Bristow Tournament which this year (2019) was held at Queens Club in London, one of the oldest and most prestigious Tennis venue’s in the world.
With your help we could one day be delivering the Sadie Bristow Foundation Tennis & Athletics programme to your students.