A charity set up by a young girl with a rare form of bone cancer has been chosen as an official partner for the FEI European Championships for Ponies.
Hannah’s Willberry Wonder Pony Charity has been chosen as the official charity for the prestigious championships, being held at Bishop Burton College from August 7 – 12.
The competition will feature 17 European nations competing across the three equestrian disciplines of dressage, showjumping and eventing. The competitors, all aged between 12 and 16, often go onto international success, representing their nations at international championships, Commonwealth Games and even the Olympics.
Hannah’s Willberry Wonder Pony Charity was founded in 2016 by Hannah Francis, a hugely talented young event rider. Hannah was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, in May 2015. She was just 17-years-old.
The prognosis was very poor indeed and Hannah subsequently endured months of painful and debilitating treatment, fighting the disease with courage and dignity. Hannah’s sheer determination was plain to see and she defied all medical opinion, continuing to ride right up until her tragically early passing at only 18 years of age.
Hannah founded the charity to raise money to fulfil two principal objectives – to fund research into osteosarcoma and to provide equestrian experiences, known as Willberry’s Wishes, to seriously ill people.
The charity made strong progress under Hannah’s leadership and has gone from strength to strength since her passing, raising £1,300,000 to date. The charity has just announced a significant research programme into osteosarcoma with Sheffield University and is additionally providing funding to PhD students as they continue their clinical and academic studies on the road to becoming research scientists.
The charity is also granting Willberry’s Wishes to seriously ill people in the hope that these experiences inspire others in the same way as they did Hannah, bringing a little happiness and hope during the darkest of times.
Bill Meredith, Chief Executive and Principal of Bishop Burton College, said: “We’re very pleased to be able to use this high-profile event as a way to showcase the fantastic work that Hannah’s Willberry Wonder Pony Charity does for thousands of people each year.
“The work they do is helping to better understand and manage the experience of those living with bone cancer.”
On the partnership with the FEI Pony European Championships, Hannah’s father James, a trustee of the charity, said: “We are very proud of our association with the FEI European Championships for Ponies and are most grateful to Bishop Burton College for its support.
“Hannah’s passion was eventing and we know she would be very excited to be involved with the promotion of these skilled young riders from across Europe.”
He added: “We will be present throughout the championships with our range of Willberry merchandise and we hope to see lots of visitors to Bishop Burton in August.”