Sam Schoolar and Claire delivering children's packs

Following a tough year of disruption to their usual fundraising activities, Shine A Light are ready to embrace the easing of lockdown and continue delivering their service to families across Coventry and Warwickshire. The charity supports families with children affected by cancer, providing much-needed counselling and play therapy services, activity and drop in sessions and therapy sessions to offer solace during the difficult time. As they approach their fifth birthday, they’re preparing for their very own return to normality.

The charity was founded in 2016 by Sam Schoolar after her personal experience of being diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia at the age of 10. Her treatment lasted two-and-a-half years – enough time to take its toll on any child – and launching Shine A Light was her opportunity to aid others going through the same ordeal.

“I understand how traumatic it can be for the whole family when a child is diagnosed,” said Sam. “It takes over everything and sometimes it can be difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel – and that’s why I wanted to help out. I took part in fundraising activities as a teenager but always strived to take things one step further. We’re now able to provide a level of comfort and companionship as families go on this life-changing journey.

“Like many other charities over the past 18 months, fundraising activities have been called off, and we haven’t been able to host the same events we usually do. I’m not going to lie and say it was an easy time because it wasn’t, but still having the opportunity to guide others through an even tougher time was worth it. We currently work with 50 families across the region.”

When the charity accepted the help of a local business coach from ActionCOACH, Kath Cleary, just before lockdown began easing, little did they know what impact this would have on their service. Following a nomination from peers to receive a gifted coaching package, the charity’s intentions resonated with Kath due to her own story.

“I, unfortunately, had cancer when I was a child,” explained Kath. “And I believe that a charity like Shine a Light could have made a massive difference to my family. Especially my brother, as he spent a lot of time staying with grandparents and friends whilst not properly understanding the situation or receiving any support to deal with it. It’s a cause very close to my heart, and I want to help create an even bigger impact across our community.”

In just two months of business coaching from Kath, Sam has begun to think strategically and consider what the next few years mean for the charity. Perhaps most importantly though, it’s the next few months that matter the most.

“One of the most vital things I’ve learnt from Kath is that I need to treat the charity as a business, and that means setting clear goals and targets. As lockdown comes to an end and fundraising can begin to ramp up again, I’m determined to reach out to more families who need our help. We did a very successful campaign last year which involved sending hampers full of activities for families to feel like they were not alone – we’ll be replicating that on an even larger scale when the time comes.

Our immediate goals include securing salary funding for several key roles within the charity which will help with our mission to double the number of families we support every year from now on.”