Pendle schoolgirl shares the limelight with top Hollywood star
A Barrowford schoolgirl was thrilled to share the stage with some of the top names in the world of showbusiness.
Jessica Austin (11) performed at the SeriousFun Children’s Network Gala, alongside superstars including Orlando Bloom, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Boy George and Natalie Pinkham.
The gala was organised to celebrate the work of SeriousFun Children’s Network – a global community of charities that provide free camps and programmes for seriously ill children, set up by Hollywood legend and philanthropist, Paul Newman.
Jessica sang and danced on stage at the event as one of the performers representing Over The Wall, the UK charity member of SeriousFun Children’s Network.
Jessica was diagnosed with a range of atopic conditions- meaning she has severe food allergies with the potential to cause anaphylaxis, eczema, asthma and rhinitis. She was only six weeks old when she developed a rash that was later diagnosed as eczema and she had her first reaction to foods at age three. Since then she has had to carry an EpiPen wherever she goes.
Jessica attended Over The Wall’s camp this year and afterwards was chosen to represent the charity by singing at the celebratory gala.
The annual event, which was sponsored by Abercrombie and Fitch Co, took place at the Round House in London in front of a 400 strong audience. The evening was filled with songs, performances, celebrity guest appearances, as well as a silent auction which raised funds for Over The Wall.
Jessica said: "“There are no words to describe how good it was.
“It was like being back at camp. The night was incredible and I want to do it all again.
“Over The Wall camp, I would say, was one of the best weeks of my life and I will never forget the memories I made there.
"It has given me more confidence in myself when asking about my allergies, it has made me feel more like I'm not on my own and it has given me the confidence to try new things. My favourite bit about camp was that I felt so safe and free.”
And Jessica’s mum, Angela thanked the charity for the difference it had made to their lives, saying: “We would like to say a big thank you to Over The Wall as camp has made a huge difference to the confidence of our daughter and for that I am so very grateful.”
Television presenter and Formula One pitlane reporter Natalie Pinkham hosted the event, before the campers closed the ceremony.
*If you have, or know of a child or family affected by health challenges, that may be interested in attending an Over The Wall camp, or if you are interested in volunteering or making a donation, visit: www.otw.org.uk