Living with cancer, Hannah Francis is leaving hoofprints of good deeds on many hearts

Always smiling, Hannah Francis.



Living with cancer, Hannah Francis is leaving hoofprints of good deeds on many hearts

Muhammad Ali once said “Don’t count the days. Make the days count.” No one has emulated this quite like Hannah Francis. Diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer called Osteosarcoma in May 2015 at just 17 years of age, Hannah had two choices-give in, or give it all you’ve got. Hannah has cancer in her pelvis, spine and lungs. It is terminal.

Hannah is a talented and capable horsewoman with a passion for eventing, and the 2015 season started full of promise. Hannah was accepted onto a Rider Development Eventing Pathway camp, with the aim of upgrading her amazing bay mare ‘Mavis’ to intermediate level by the end of the year. Hannah’s diagnosis that May changed everything, but life had a plan for her-she could never have known just how many people’s lives she was about to change for the better.

Hannah began gruelling chemotherapy which often left her too weak and Ill to leave the hospital. She was given a ‘mascot’ to help her through her treatment, in the form of the now famous little stuffed toy-Willberry Wonder Pony. Hannah and Willberry began to chronicle their story on Social Media, and very soon they had a huge following. A friend close to Hannah suggested selling Willberry WonderPony wrist bands to raise money, with the aim of supporting Hannah throughout her treatment and also raising funds for charity.

Hannah’s fundraising campaign was an instant success. She built on the wristband sales by organising the Willberry Wonder Ball, with an accompanying auction and raffle. The event raised £25, 000. Willberry’s ‘family’ have also been working hard to promote awareness of Hannah’s plight and to raise additional funds-‘Raceberry’ is taking the racing world by storm, ‘Paraberry’ is in charge of operations in Para riding, Cooleyberry is flying the flag in Ireland-and there are many more. Hannah and Willberry also began meeting as many horsey celebrities as they could-everyone from Zara Phillips to AP McCoy and Valegro to Mulry’s Error have had the privilege of spending time with this special girl. Everything from tea parties to jumble sales are being organised to raise money.

Event rider Ben Hobday was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma mid way through the 2015 event season. Hannah and Ben became great friends, and together immortalised the now famous slogan #kickingcancersbutt. Ben is currently in remission, and fought hard to be ready to compete at Badminton this spring with his top horse Mulry’s Error. The world’s premier 4* was a truly special event. Hannah turned 18-a milestone she was unsure she would achieve-and Ben rode a flawless double clear round with Willberry stitched into his number bib. Shortly after Badminton, Hannah rode in her first British Eventing competition of 2016 with Mavis. She also went for a beach ride, and then travelled to Ireland as the ‘Guinea Pig’ dressage test rider at the Tattersalls International Horse Trials-all things to tick off her ‘bucket list’.

Almost a year to the day after Hannah and Willberry first met, Hannah set up a registered charity called ‘Hannah’s Willberry Wonder Pony’. The aim is to raise funds for research and treatment of bone cancers, and also to grant horsey-themed wishes to gravely ill people-along similar lines to the Make A Wish Foundation. The total raised so far is £110, 000. In the last year, Hannah has achieved more than most people could do in a lifetime. She is never without her huge trademark smile. She is gracious and kind, and says ‘Thankyou’ all of the time. She thinks of everyone before she thinks of herself, and she is working so hard to improve the lives of many others, despite her own bleak prognosis. She has shown everyone the true definition of courage and selflessness, and we are all far better people because of it. Her legacy will live on forever. Hannah Francis has changed the game.

Unfortunately Hannah is back in hospital and we are sending her healing wishes and love. Stay strong Hannah!

Follow Hannah and Willberry:  [Facebook]

To donate to the charity or buy a wristband:  [Website]

For Willberry merchandise including whips and hat silks: [Uptown Eventing’s on-line store]


Willberry Wonder Pony

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