28/03/2011 – Sixteen year old Connor Rowntree, from Houghton-le-Spring in Tyne and Wear, had his wish to go to ‘The Wizarding World of Harry Potter’ theme park in Orlando granted by Starlight Children’s Foundation, the UK’s leading wish granting charity for children with serious and terminal illnesses.
In May 2009, Connor was involved in a terrible accident when staying at a friend’s house that resulted in life-threatening burns covering over 90% of his body. Connor spent many months in intensive care in RVI Hospital in Newcastle and underwent over 100 operations. He suffered from collapsed lungs, kidney failure and, for over six months, his family were told that he could not be expected to survive his injuries.
The severity of Connor’s condition meant that he was completely immobile, and only after months of painful physiotherapy is the brave teenager now able to walk. He has also suffered serious psychological trauma as a result of the accident and needed specialist help to overcome the terrible nightmares he experienced.
Despite the incredible challenges he has faced, his mum Carol said that her son has shown immense bravery throughout: “Connor dedicated himself to recovering and showed a maturity beyond his years. He threw himself into his physiotherapy and, although he used to cry with the pain, he never gave up.
“Connor has astounded the doctors and nurses with his recovery and although he still has a long way to go, we have come through the worst of it. He still has to go to the hospital regularly for physio and has to be constantly creamed and massaged from head to foot. He also has to wear pressure garments for 23 hours a day to protect his skin and aid the healing process. It drives him mad with itching but he never complains.”
When he was in hospital, Connor was referred to Starlight for a once-in-a-lifetime wish and the Harry Potter fan knew exactly what it was that he wanted.
“Connor has always been a massive fan of Harry Potter and we would talk for hours about taking him to the theme park when he was well enough and discharged from hospital. Sadly, at that time it was only a dream as the situation we found ourselves in meant that it would impossible for us to take him there,” Carol said.
Connor told Starlight: “It would be the best dream ever. After being in hospital for so long and thinking loads of times that I would never get home again, it would be the best thing to look forward to.”
In March 2011, Starlight organised for Connor and his family to travel to the Orlando resort, where they were able to enjoy the wonders of the theme park and enjoy the Harry Potter inspired rides and attractions.
Carol said: “A Starlight wish gave Connor something to aim for. It made him believe that there was some light at the end of a very dark tunnel. I am eternally grateful that Starlight has made my brave, strong lad’s dream come true.”
As a result of his determination and strength, brave Connor has recently been awarded the 2011 News of the World’s Children’s Champion Award. Connor has also received The Radio 1 Teen Hero award, The Sun FM Local Hero Award, The Pride of Wearside Child of Courage award and a courage award from The North East Ambulance Service. He has also been helping his local Fire Service to raise awareness of the dangers of playing with fire.
Contact: Henny Breakwell
Tel: 020 7262 2881 #231
Starlight grants a once-in-a-lifetime wish for seriously and terminally ill children, restoring the magic and fun of childhood and giving the whole family happy memories to share, whatever the future holds.
Starlight also creates entertainment in every hospital and hospice throughout the UK. Sick children go to Starlight parties, laugh their way through pantomimes, go out on Starlight Escapes, play games and watch films on the Starlight Fun Centre, and enjoy the toys and puzzles of the Starlight Distraction Box. Happy children respond better to treatment and Starlight helps children to forget about their illness and simply have a bit of fun.
You can make a donation online or by calling us on 020 7262 2881. For every £1 you donate, Starlight can assure you that 91p goes towards helping very ill children. To refer a child for a wish, simply complete our wish referral form.