This is the story of Eric and Jack. Eric Vanlint died in April 2017, he was 91 years old. In his Will he asked six friends to award his estate to charities who work with young people based in Suffolk. Each friend could choose a charity to benefit. One of the executors, Mrs Caz Wilkinson, chose Colchester & Ipswich Hospitals Charity’s Children’s Appeal for very personal and touching reasons.
In 1997 Caz Wilkinson and her family relocated from Wiltshire to Felixstowe. Soon after the move, she saw an advertisement in the East Anglian Daily Times for a poetry book written by a local author Eric Vanlint.
Over the years Eric self-published 13 books and he always insisted 100% of the sale price went to charity and in doing so raised over £250,000 for good causes. For this particular book, he had put pen to paper to write poetry in memory of his beloved wife, Dorie who had died of cancer in 1996. Caz was so touched by his prose and charitable heart she felt compelled to contact him and wrote him a letter.
This was the start of a great and long-lasting friendship. In the early days they exchanged hand written letters but when she heard Eric wrote his books on a word processer she invited him round one sunny Saturday for lunch with the family and to show him how to use a computer.
The computer training was a success and Caz’s husband, Karl, helped Eric buy a computer of his own. The word processor was now a thing of the past.
That first lunch was also when Eric, who was in his seventies, met their son Jack aged three. At the time, Jack was in remission from a rare form of bladder cancer. They quickly formed a close bond and as Jack grew up it soon became clear they were kindred spirits in their generosity and kindness to others and also their enjoyment of poetry and wildlife.
In April 2005, Jack’s cancer had returned. The family were devastated but remained hopeful as Jack soldiered through many tests and treatments including radiotherapy, chemotherapy and surgery over the next year. Sadly, Jack lost his battle and died in August 2006 aged 12.
Caz remembers “I wanted to give up but it was Eric’s courage that kept me going. Eric had such a generous soul. He never wanted anything for himself and his philosophy to carry him through the heart break of losing his own wife was ‘by helping others he helped himself’.
“I thought to myself if Eric can do it, then I can do it. Eric channelled his energy into giving his gift of poetry and writing to others. I’m privileged to have known Eric and so it was really important to me to choose a worthy local cause as he would have done.
“The Children’s Appeal at Ipswich Hospital couldn’t be more fitting. Jack was treated at various hospitals but there was something reassuring about the continuity we had from the wonderful and supportive staff at Ipswich.
“I am particularly grateful to nurse Sarah Smith who always made Jack laugh even when he was receiving end of life care at home. I know she made his illness a lot less scary for him.
“Jack would be 25 years old today and I know he would definitely agree with my decision to award Eric’s very kind gift to the Children’s Appeal. People don’t realise how significant charity contributions are to hospitals. They wouldn’t be the amazing places they are without them.”
The Children’s Appeal is helping to raise £2.5m to completely redevelop and renovate the children’s ward at Ipswich Hospital. The current space is dated and no longer fit for purpose.
Sarah Smith is now Head of Nursing for Women’s and Children’s Services at Ipswich Hospital and says “I remember Jack well. He had an amazing sense of humour and kept smiling even when times got tough. He was always so polite and thoughtful and I still have a book of his poetry.
“There is no doubt that this tremendous £149,445 legacy will help transform the children’s department. All the staff do a remarkable job at the moment, but to have an uplifting and functional environment to match their enthusiasm and dedication will be phenomenal. From the bottom of my heart I would like to thank Caz, Jack and Eric for helping make our dream become one step closer to a reality.”
The Children’s Appeal is now one year old and including this big-hearted legacy the total raised so far is £216,927. To find out more, visit The Children’s Appeal page.