Harefield FC chairman hails brave Jess, 8, as music festival aims to raise £10k in cancer fight

8 year-old Jess 8 year-old Jess

 The chairman of Harefield FC has hailed the bravery of a young girl battling cancer, ahead of an open air festival designed to raise vital cash for her treatment.

Jess Shepherd, 8, from Ruislip, is suffering from a rare form of childhood cancer for the fourth time.

Her family has been trying to raise enough money to send her to America for special treatment that she can not get in the UK.

Gary South, chairman and president of Preston Park-based Harefield FC, has spoken of the heartbreaking situation of seeing Jess, a Harefield Primary School pupil, fight against the illness at such a young age.

Click here for more on Jess's story and what her family recently told Hillingdon is Here.

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Inspired by her plight, Gary, a musician, has spearheaded the Harestock Festival, which takes place on Sunday.

He hopes it will swell the fundraising coffers further, following an ex-professionals football match recently, which raised over £10,000 for Jess.

Thinking about his own granddaughter of the same age who was born prematurely, Gary wanted to do anything he could to help Jess.

He told Hillingdon is Here: “It just hit home what her family must be going through... to see Jessica, it’s heartbreaking. I think about it all the time. I can’t imagine what her poor family are going through.”

Even though there have been setbacks, he said Jess has remained positive. Gary said: “She’s such a brave child. She attends school when she can, she goes to Brownies.

“She knows the consequences. She’s not been duped by her family. But she’s a star she just carries on.

“And as she’s been going through chemotherapy, there’s a small baby with the same condition as her and she cares more about the baby. She just wants to go and visit this little baby in the cot. She’s a caring happy smiling child.”

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Jess has been fighting a rare childhood cancer on and off since she was three. Although it went into remission spontaneously, she suffered the first relapse on 28 December 2013.

She named her tumour Boris and thereafter the Help Jess Beat Boris campaign sprung into action. She recently met Uxbridge and South Ruislip MP Boris Johnson, pictured below.

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Jess met MP Boris Johnson at the civic centre recently

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Despite looking forward to the festival, Jess may not be able to attend due to the difficulties and pain experienced from recent treatment.

Hoping to raise £10,000 towards the £300,000 goal through the festival, Gary has been working hard since May to drum up interest. See poster on tweet below for full line up.

He said: “It’s been a busy two months really. We’ve been doing it all ourselves, all of the musicians, organising it and getting everyone together.”

Before Gary got the ball rolling, his first signing, local band My Mate Kate, coincidentally approached him with the same idea.

He said: “At the same time I wanted to get them involved they actually phoned me and said ‘hey Gary, we’re thinking about doing something for Jess’”.

They will rename the band My Mate Jess on the day.

Gary's own group, the Gaz South Band, will play at the festival. He used Facebook to find others who would perform for free.

He said: “I just tried to keep it local with local artists. Soon after I set up the group, word spread and loads of people said they wanted to get involved.”

Harestock Festival takes place on Sunday 14 August at Harefield Football Club.

The show starts at 11am and tickets are £10. It is free for under 16s. Tickets can be purchased at the Harefield Football Club and the Harefield Pub.

 

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