Daventry dad needs your help to restore old VW campervan in daughter's memory for terminally-ill patients

"With it coming up to the anniversary, I miss her every day."
Cassandra Belcher worked as a carerCassandra Belcher worked as a carer
Cassandra Belcher worked as a carer

A father from Daventry is raising money to complete the renovation of an old Volkswagen campervan in the memory of his daughter.

Russell Belcher wants to use the 1973 campervan, called Sunshine, to treat terminally-ill people as a tribute to Cassandra Belcher, who died of cervical cancer in September last year.

"I've had quite a few companies involved helping me so when it's up and running I'm going to take out terminally-ill patients if it's on their bucket lists to go in a VW campervan," he said.

Cassandra Belcher with her father Russell Belcher and his wife Lyn BelcherCassandra Belcher with her father Russell Belcher and his wife Lyn Belcher
Cassandra Belcher with her father Russell Belcher and his wife Lyn Belcher

"But it still needs a lot of work doing to it. I've raised some money for it but as you can imagine, it will cost thousands of pounds to do it all."

Cassie, who grew up in Banbury, was diagnosed with cervical cancer in June and died on September 1, despite being told she had 12 to 18 months to live.

Russell described the 29-year-old carer 'a real people person' who loved to help people, making being a carer her 'true calling'.

"She had ADHD which made things really interesting sometimes but she was a beautiful girl, so lovely and caring," he said.

Cassandra Belcher (right) with her father Russell and sister Rebekah BrionCassandra Belcher (right) with her father Russell and sister Rebekah Brion
Cassandra Belcher (right) with her father Russell and sister Rebekah Brion

"With it coming up to the anniversary, I miss her every day."

The campervan restoration started before Cassie passed away as a distraction from the cancer treatment but the project took a back seat as her condition worsened.

After her death, Russell decided to persevere with the scheme in his daughter's name and has had some generous donations from businesses to make the campervan perfect.

Jon-Paul Vehicle recovery and salvage, Vee Wee, BASF paint suppliers, Glen Matthews, 1st Clever Choice paint and body repairs and James of James Feilding properties have lended a hand.

But he wants to make it suitable for someone with a terminal illness, with amenities like a fridge for medication and a new engine to keep them warm.

All of this work comes at a cost so he is turning to the generosity of the community for assistance, already raising around £1,800 from donations.

Family members and friends are also getting involved, with Cassie's pal of 17 years, Lisa Walton, planning a 24-hour Playstation marathon to raise money.

Russell also wants to use the campervan to raise awareness of cervical cancer as Cassie did everything right after experiencing heavy vaginal discharge in March.

She went to the doctors who gave her blood tests and a smear test but they showed no serious problems.

The issue did not go away though and after a struggle to see a specialist gynaecologist, a biopsy of her cervix was found to be cancerous in June.

Everything seemed manageable but cancer spread throughout her lymphatic system and the large tumour was pressing on her liver, kidney and bowel.

Radiotherapy treatment at Northampton General Hospital stopped the bleeding as the lower tumour was partially removed.

Russell said: "This gave us all significant hope. For the first time since her diagnosis, we saw a light at the end of the tunnel.

"Cassie still felt fine in herself except for discomfort in her legs."

But blood clots in her lungs and in her thigh caused significant swelling in her legs due to the fluid being trapped, giving her weeks to live.

Cassie suffered a stroke due to cancer spreading to the brain and was moved to a palliative care ward at Danetre Hospital where the family was told it would be hours, not weeks.

Russell said: "Cassie's health continued to decrease until 48 hours later she passed surrounded by her family, smiling."

Instead of a funeral, her loved ones had a 'fun-for-all' with a disco, bouncy castle and a bar.

Everyone wore bright colours and played games as Cassie was always the first to be up and bouncing with the kids.

Anyone who wants to help Russell should visit justgiving.com/crowdfunding/cassiebelcher.

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