If there were a nonstopmama of the year award, we’d be honoured to give it to Carmel Allen, founder of the Kiss it Better appeal for Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital (GOSH). A former beauty editor, Carmel came up with the idea for the campaign, which raises money for research into the causes and treatment of childhood cancer. Carmel’s daughter, Josephine, was treated for neuroblastoma at GOSH, which treats one in nine children with cancer in the UK. All funds raised by Kiss It Better – including the sale of Clinique’s limited edition Long Last Glosswear SPF 15 (£13) in I Love Kisses, available now at House of Fraser stores – help to fund specialist nurses, enabling more children to participate in clinical trials.
With Kiss It Better now in its sixth year, how do you feel about the way the appeal has developed?
Of course I feel proud of Kiss It Better, but I always feel I could be doing more and want to push it further. Survival rates for children with cancer are improving all the time, so here we have a really positive message to send out: children getting better through pioneering research and great care. Josephine is testament to this and every day I feel proud of her and in awe of the doctors who work and research childhood cancers.
The Kiss It Better website explains that childhood cancer is the biggest disease affecting children today. Do many people not realise this, have you found?
Interestingly, I’ve found people do know how big the problem is – and how it’s growing. Only in the past year I have heard of two other children who are suffering from cancer (one from leaukemia and another from a neuroblastoma), so it’s not difficult to get support and encouragement from other parents who are keen to help.
Working so closely with GOSH, how have you seen the funds being raised making a difference?
When a child is treated at GOSH, they go back for check-ups regularly. So, every time Jojo and I go and see one of the doctors, we bump into former patients who are doing well – like us -and that is a constant reminder of how successful the treatments can be. But on top of that there are some real, blow-your-mind-away moments too. Like the special piece of kit Kiss It Better help to fund which allows lots of samples of blood to be tested at the same time. I can’t explain it properly, but one of the research doctors explained how they used it to compare samples from twin sisters (one who had cancer and the other who didn’t). Up until then, the hospital was unable to do this kind of comparative testing. When they could, the work they did helped them make a breakthrough in understanding why supposedly identical cells behaved differently.
Along with Clinique, how have other companies got involved?
They are all on the website, but in particular I love Cafe Rouge and the Almanac Gallery cards – which are sold through Waterstones – as Josephine has designed one of the cards each year and her designs have always sold really well. Obviously, as a proud mum I’m chuffed to bits about that!
What else can people do to get involved and help raise funds?
We’d love everyone to hold a Bake It Better coffee morning or cake sale at school. It couldn’t be easier and lots of celebrity cooks, including Sophie Conran and Sophie Dahl, have given their favourite cupcake recipes to help draw attention to the campaign. What’s so special about it is that children can help other children this way, as they often hold cake sales at school. It helps them become aware of childhood cancer and how they can be involved.
As a nonstopmama yourself, how do you manage the juggle and find time to keep fit and relax?
Last year, I bought a bike and cycle to work a couple of times a week now. That’s made a huge difference. And reading – there’s nothing I like more than putting Jojo to bed, then putting myself to bed a few minutes later with a good book and a mug of Horlicks. I find I really need a couple of really early nights each week to be on top form.
The Kiss It Better appeal is sure to go from strength to strength. Do you have any special plans for the future?
Yes – so many ideas, but never enough time. I’ll keep you posted – there are lots of things coming up!
To donate to the Kiss It Better campaign online, click here.