A BELOVED teenager has passed away after the community rallied to give him his dream trip to Italy.
Charlie Hilton, 16, of Butts Road, Southwick, died last Wednesday three years after being diagnosed with terminal cancer.
The teenager had the trip of a lifetime last November thanks to the community who clubbed together to raise thousands of pounds for him to take a cruise to Italy.
“He was a fighter, he really was a fighter and everybody said he’s been an inspiration,” said grandad Dave Hilton.
“He never stopped fighting and he never stopped hoping – that was the thing. We knew it was inevitable but we kept hoping it would put off and put off.”
The Shoreham Academy pupil was diagnosed with desmoplastic small-round-cell tumour – a very rare and aggressive form of cancer –and six months ago was told it was terminal. Despite the devastating diagnosis, he continued living life to the full and was described by Dave as ‘our brave soldier’.
So popular was Charlie the community decided to send him and his family on Charlie’s dream holiday – a trip to Italy last November to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Colosseum in Rome. Initially started by neighbour Sylvia Whelan, the campaign raised more than £8,000 after scores of people contributed.
“They raised enough money to send us on the cruise, to have expenses and we had nothing to worry about,”said Dave.
“It went on the internet and there was thousands given – it was incredible.
“One of the things we want to do is thank all the people that supported us all the way through. The support of the local community and friends and neighbours has been absolutely incredible. There’s no way we can thank people enough. Words fail us.”
Italian general strikes meant they were unable to visit the Colosseum, but Dave said his grandson got his wish to visit Pisa.
“We got to Pisa and he was really pleased about that. We had a great time going around Pisa and he really loved it.”
In addition, they also stopped off at Barcelona, Naples and Toulon.
“It’s tinged with sadness but there are some really good memories that will be with us forever,”said Dave.
“He cared about other people right to the end.”
Engaged to his fiancée Molly Draper, Charlie had still been planning things for them to do together.
“He had a weekend arranged, he had booked a concert and a meal,” said Dave. Charlie passed away at Chestnut Tree House children’s hospice, with a minister arriving last Tuesday to administer the last rights.
“As he left the room Charlie said ‘thank you for coming’.
“He still wanted to say thank you even though he was struggling to breathe at that time. That’s the sort of boy he was. Everybody who has met him said he was a lovely boy,” said Dave.
A funeral takes place on Thursday (July 30) at 12pm at St Michael and All Angels Church, in Southwick.
As Charlie was an ardent Liverpool supporter, people have been asked to wear red and the men to wear odd socks – something Charlie used to love to do.
“We don’t want it to be a sombre occasion,” said Dave. “There’s a lot to be celebrated in his life, even though it was a short one.”
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