Epworth family feature on prime time TV

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A family who lost their little son to a rare childhood cancer almost two years ago, have been chosen as ambassadors for the charity Together for Short Lives.

Mark, Maxine and Olivia Strong were chosen by ITV and the This Morning programme after the producer of This Morning read emotive words written by Max about her late son Alexander on the Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice website.

Their selection led to a fantastic chain of events that has seen them share time with celebrities, the cast of ‘Frozen’ and with Disney characters in Florida, as they were filmed for the Text Santa appeal, and interviewed about experiences.

Some of their adventure, which ends with five days to themselves in the USA, is recorded by Maxine on social media website Facebook, with photographs of beaming faces and new famous friends.

The Strongs, of Burnham Road, Epworth, have chatted to Peter Andre, chilled with Richard Madeley and Judy Finnegan, and enjoyed VIP treatment in Florida as part of their surprise package.

Mark Strong told the Bells: “We have our own personal guide so we are doing absolutely everything, and I mean that. We are going on all the rides, meeting all the characters, doing every activity. Bess, our guide, gets us in to everything so no waiting around. She really looks after us.

“We have been to all four parks – Epson, Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. We have been on a Safari, and watched a firework display from the privileged position of a boat in the middle of a lake by our Disney hotel.”

He added: “The hotel is excellent and full of Christmas cheer, from a huge tree in the foyer to roasted chestnuts and Christmas carols. “It is simply fabulous and very special.”

The special family also helped to switch on five million Disney Christmas lights in Florida – a magical experience for Olivia who received help from another young ambassador and Disney character Goofy.

The Strongs won the hearts of Isle people as they fought in vain to keep their seven-year old son with them after he was diagnosed with neuroblastoma almost five years ago. Lex died in January 2013 and hundreds attended his funeral in the centre of Epworth.

Since then the family have lived up to their names and despite their grief, have helped raise thousands of pounds to help other children. A community accolades night, the Pride of the Isle Awards, was set up to honour Alexander’s short life and now takes place with a glittering ceremony each January.

Singer and presenter Peter Andre was so impressed with the family after meeting them, that he has officially named a star after Alexander, and sent Maxine, Mark and Olivia a personal message to tell them of the tribute.

The Strongs will next week be interviewed on ITV’s This Morning programme.