WHEN the Rob George Foundation first launched in memory of its namesake, its mission statement was to “make a difference, one individual at a time”.

Today, the organisation’s mantra very much remains the same but its capacity to realise the dreams of youngsters in need has ballooned.

Founded in memory of talented sportsman Rob George, who died in 2013 from acute myeloid leukaemia aged 21, the charity provides support - be it practical or financial - to young people with life threatening or terminal illnesses.

It also helps fund individuals pursuing a career in sport or the performing arts who may otherwise be held back because of their circumstances.

Initially the aim was to “touch the lives of a few young people living in and around the Colchester area”, something which has very much been achieved.

But the foundation’s growth has dwarfed its own expectations and has now officially helped more than 1,000 young people - something which its founders, Rob’s parents Philip and Lorraine, never quite expected to happen.

“We feel very proud to have achieved this milestone,” said Philip, 69, who has lived in Colchester for 45 years.

“We derive an enormous sense of pride from the many and varied achievements of our grantees.

“In some cases, we feel very close to them and it is as if we have a great big extended family.

“We never dreamt at the beginning we would reach a milestone such as this, but we are now very happy to support applications from every corner of the United Kingdom.”

One of the many to benefit from the foundation is 23-year-old boxer Lewis Richardson, who lives on the Monkwick council estate in Colchester.

The talented fighter, who competes for Great Britain and is the number one middleweight in the country, is hoping to take part in in this year’s Olympics.

Boxer - Lewis Richardson with champion Anthony Joshua

competes for Great Britain

Boxer - Lewis Richardson with champion Anthony Joshua competes for Great Britain

His chances of making it to the prestigious games have been bolstered thanks to the foundation.

He said: “When I was searching for support in order to follow my dreams and aspirations within boxing the Rob George Foundation came up.

“I applied for support and was grateful when I was successful with my application.

“The foundation has supported me financially on three occasions, helping me to purchase new high quality training equipment to allow me to train and perform optimally, alongside helping me to remain injury free.”

Sophie Mulligan, who is 25-years-old and lives in Liverpool has also been supported by the foundation.

In 2015 she was diagnosed with the same type of cancer Rob battled and after numerous setbacks is feeling healthier than ever.

Sophie Mulligan, 25, was able to purchase a special orthopaedic bed thanks to the Rob George Foundation after being diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia

Sophie Mulligan, 25, was able to purchase a special orthopaedic bed thanks to the Rob George Foundation after being diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia

During one of her treatments, however, she suffered a slipped disc in her back which left her in debilitating pain and having sleepless nights.

“As the type of leukaemia I had could get into the spinal fluid, I had to have chemotherapy administered into this area by the form of lumbar punctures,” said Sophie.

“The sheer amount of these went on to cause a slipped disc in my back.

“This, on top of all of the other chemotherapy I was having left me feeling incredibly low.

“I applied for a grant from the Rob George Foundation to buy an orthopaedic bed and within a week of sleeping on it, which I used my grant to purchase, I was out of pain and my mood lifted massively.

“If I did not have the orthopaedic bed I dread to think of the situation I would be in right now.

“I remain eternally grateful to the Rob George Foundation, as do my family.”

Another grantee is Aimee Carrington, 16, of Kent, who has been an ice dance skater since she was five-years-old.

She has competed in the British National Championships every year since 2014, but for a one parent family the sport can be extremely expensive.

Grateful - ice skater Aimee Carrington, 16 would not have been able to follow her dream of being an ice skater if not for the help of the foundation

Grateful - ice skater Aimee Carrington, 16 would not have been able to follow her dream of being an ice skater if not for the help of the foundation

Aimee’s grandad Tony Carrington said: “The foundation has been extremely important both in helping funding Aimee and in the support they give.

“Aimee’s mother has MS, so without the Rob George foundation it would not be possible for her to get the amount of coaching she needs.

“We owe such a lot to the foundation.”

Like Aimee, Brioni Crowe’s mum also has numerous health complications, so she was eligible to apply for funding through the Rob George Foundation.

Thanks to the charity’s support, the Blackpool flautist, 18, has been able to continue studying at the Junior Royal Northern College of Music every Saturday.

Talent - Brioni Crowe, 18, whose mum has health complications, is now studying at the Junior Royal Northern College of Music

Talent - Brioni Crowe, 18, whose mum has health complications, is now studying at the Junior Royal Northern College of Music

Without it, Brioni’s dream of becoming a professional musician would have taken a huge blow.

“This is where I have my flute lessons, ensemble playing and many other academic music lessons,” added Brioni.

“So, I am so grateful for the Rob George Foundation as this has opened so many opportunities for me.

“Without their help we could not have afforded the fees, so I shall be forever grateful.

“Since then they have been with me every step of the way and supported my performances and achievements.

“It has been great to have all their support and I hope to be able to perform for them one day at a charity function.”

There is no questioning the success of the foundation. But what would Rob have made of his legacy?

“I think he would have been thrilled,” added Philip.

“When he was diagnosed with leukaemia, he never complained about it and never asked ‘Why me?’.

“His sadness was for other people, not for himself. He was a talented young man who was determined to achieve something in life.

“So, when this opportunity was cruelly snatched away from him, we promised we would establish the foundation and try to achieve something in his name.

“I think he would have been very proud with our work so far.”