Stevenage family to spread festive cheer on Christmas Eve in memory of 26-year-old cancer victim

Darren Hall died in May 2005, a year after being diagnosed with leukaemia. Now 10 years on, a Steven

Darren Hall died in May 2005, a year after being diagnosed with leukaemia. Now 10 years on, a Stevenage family are spreading Christmas cheer today in his memory. - Credit: Archant

A family from Stevenage will be spreading Christmas cheer to 20 houses across the town today in memory of their neighbour’s son, who died a decade ago after a year-long battle with cancer.

Tracey Woods’ husband Darren and 14-year-old son TJ are dressing up as Santa and an elf as they deliver presents and magic reindeer food to families between 12 noon and 5pm today.

The pair normally adopt their festive roles for the annual Santa’s grotto organised by their neighbour Angie Minett in memory of her son Darren Hall, but this year that has not been possible so Tracey has taken up the reins.

Floating the idea on Facebook of visiting families in return for donations to Bloodwise – the blood cancer charity which Angie has always raised money for since her son’s death from leukaemia in 2005 at the age of 26 – Tracey was overwhelmed by the response.

The 43-year-old of Briardale, where she has been a neighbour to Angie for 15 years, said: “I couldn’t believe the response – the post went absolutely viral.

“Initially we were going to visit three to five families but it snowballed from there – I spent nine hours on the first day trying to go through all the messages!

“It’s been fantastic and I’d like to thank Fancy Pants Hire in Knebworth for providing the Santa costume for free.”

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Angie, 61, who lives with her husband Tyrone, has raised thousands of pounds to help fund leukaemia research since Darren’s death, and said Christmas has always been a special time of year.

“After he passed – a year after being diagnosed – it was too raw, but then we started doing different fundraisers,” said Angie.

“It took a year to organise a fun day so about three or four years ago we did a Santa’s grotto which was less time consuming.

“Christmas meant a lot to Darren and myself, so that’s how I came up with the grotto idea which has worked as we have a conservatory.

“Unfortunately we haven’t been able to hold the grotto this year as we are in the process of moving house, so I am so thankful to Tracey who has worked so hard to make this happen.

“When she told me how many people wanted her to visit I worked out that it would take her two days – but that’s Tracey, she always wants to do things for other people which is really nice.

“When she sets her mind to do something it always seems to fit into place. She’s a great neighbour and I really appreciate what she’s doing, it’s a lovely gesture.”

To make a donation to Bloodwise, formerly known as Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, visit bloodwise.org.uk.

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