When Keith Ellick (originally from St Helena) was diagnosed with terminal cancer, his boss and friend Addam (CORR) Smith was desperate to help.
In a real-life version of popular TV programme DIY SOS, Mr Smith and a group of volunteers recruited from across the UK via Facebook teamed up to transform his friend’s two-bedroom council house. But Mr Smith now wants to go a step further and raise £100,000 so Keith can buy the house, giving much-needed security for his partner Sasha, 26, and their five-year-old son Leyton. “This isn’t really about the money, it’s about peace of mind for Keith and putting things in place for his family,” he said. Keith, who has known Addam Smith for over 10 years and also works for his landscaping business, was diagnosed in January with terminal cancer that had spread from his oesophagus to his liver and blood and told he potentially had less than a year to live.
For the 41-year-old, from Lincoln, his biggest concern was his children. Friend and boss Mr Smith, who runs his own landscaping business http://www.alsfencingandlandscaping.co.uk/ in Skellingthorpe, Lincoln, said: “One of the first things he said was, ‘I haven’t even got the money for a funeral’. He wasn’t worried about himself; he was worried about his family.”
Mr Smith, a father-of-two himself, posted a message to the 17,000-strong Builders Talk Group on Facebook voicing his heartbreak at the news and within hours had received hundreds of comments along with ideas to support his friend. One was an online fundraising site to raise cash for Keith to organise a funeral and set up trust funds for his children. With Keith’s blessing, Mr Smith set up the site, setting a target of £2,000 to help his friend put his affairs in order. But within 24 hours it had already hit £8,000.
The 41-year-old, who served as a Guardsman in the Grenadier Guards, started posting regular video updates on Keith’s condition and the fund continued to grow. It currently stands at more than £27,000 (https://www.gofundme.com/Liftkeith), and along with the money, other kind gestures have flooded in, including tickets for Keith to see his favourite football team Everton. One group member also put Keith in touch with charity Team Verrico (www.teamverrico.org), which supports research into new treatments for cancer and provides financial help and support. The charity funded a visit this week to a specialist oncologist in London and Mr Ellick is now in the early stages of being accepted for potentially life-saving clinical trials. In one of his videos, Mr Smith revealed his plan to landscape Keith’s garden. “From there, people were like, ‘can I come and help?’ I had all these tradesmen messaging me saying they would come and help with the garden.
“A lightbulb went on and I thought, I’ve had all these boys with these different trades offering me help so why not use it?” When he suggested to the group that they pool their skills to carry out a DIY SOS-style renovation of Keith’s house, Mr Smith was inundated with volunteers from across the country. He then spent weeks sourcing free materials – including a bathroom suite and new kitchen – by asking local big name companies, local contacts and the generous members of the Builders Talk Group for help. Keith and his family were sent to a nearby log cabin for a week and the build began on Easter Monday. Over that week a total of 50 tradesmen – many fellow veterans – worked on the project, some for a day or two, others for the whole week.
They included plumbers, joiners, decorators, tilers, and plasterers who had travelled from across the UK from places including South Wales, Essex, Oxfordshire and the Midlands, and even Mr Smith’s local rival landscaping company. The ‘band of builders’ were given a discount at a local hotels and were fed throughout the week by well-wishers bringing cakes, pasties and bacon butties. But the build wasn’t without its stress. “Imagine having 17 guys in a little two-bedroom house with only one way in and out,” said Mr Smith. “People were fitting kitchens, bathrooms, plastering. Everyone was literally stepping over each other. “I was working until the early hours all week, some guys were putting shifts in up to 10pm. Some were coming after a full day at work then working all evening.”
In just a week the group revamped the house, fitting a new kitchen and bathroom, decorating Keith’s bedroom, laying new flooring throughout and fully landscaping the front and back gardens. The mammoth project was finished just in time, with the final task – Keith’s doorstep being painted ‘Everton’ blue – completed just minutes before the family returned. “Keith was lost for words,” said Mr Smith. “He was in tears, we all were.” Mr Smith – who even received a congratulatory phone call from DIY SOS presenter Nick Knowles when he got wind of the project – said the build was “amazing”. “When I left the army 15 years ago, I thought I would never have banter and camaraderie like it again but that week was the craziest of my life. What you can achieve when you put your mind to it is pretty special.”
Just days after they finished, one of the men involved suggested that – having carried out around £30,000 worth of renovations to Keith’s council-owned home – they help him buy it, a mission Mr Smith has embraced. And while completing the whole renovation without any publicity, he is sharing the story in the hope it will help raise around £100,000 for Keith to buy the house. “All the way through, I’ve had, ‘that can’t be done’. But the way I see it, if we can get 90,000 people to donate £10, that’s £90,000.” Keith, a former member of the RAF Regiment said he was reluctant to accept help at first but the efforts of his friend will allay his biggest worry – who will look after his family if he dies. Keith, who was born on St Helena, grew up in small district known as Half Tree Hollow and was well known within the community. Keith was recruited from the Island for the Armed forces in 1999 where he had served overseas for his queen and Country. In his four years he was based in Germany, Oman, The Falkland Islands and finished up at RAF Waddington just outside Lincoln.
“When I was diagnosed all I was thinking about was my family, my kids, how am I going to provide for them? Keith also reiterated these words in a very touching online video.
“What Addam and these guys have done, and what they’re doing, is amazing. We didn’t think it was possible, that people would do
something like that for us.” His partner Sasha added: “We feel kind of guilty because we have had so much. The house was enough and having money for a funeral and for the children but this is another step. It’s amazing.” Many of you reading this today will know/of Keith, please take a moment to view the video that was produced by Addam, Keith’s friend and “Best Boss in the World”, as quoted by Metro paper in London, who was behind this entire project, I am sure each and every one reading this fascinating story both Saints on and off Island would like to thank Addam Smith and everyone who has contributed at the Facebook Builders Talk Group for what they have done for Keith. Please show your appreciation of what has been done thus far. You can contribute here https://www.gofundme.com/Liftkeith Thanks to Darren Back Photography and Addam for the photos, we also have a uncensored version of the video please contact us and we will send you the link. Feel free to leave a message below in the comments as this will be seen by the builders talk group. A special thanks also to Ellen Manning, a freelance UK journalist, for supplying this entire original story which has been edited slightly for republishing on www.sthelenalocal.com On behalf of Keiths friends an family back on St Helena where he originated from and around the world, I would like to on their behalf personally thank each and everyone of you for what you have done for Keith and continue to do, YOU ARE A SPECIAL BUNCH. (Editor Johnny Clingham)
Please contribute to help Keith and make Addams dream come true https://www.gofundme.com/Liftkeith
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All today we ran a short Interview with Addam & Sasha on this story.
The interview was focused on the project and recorded especially for audience back on the Island of St Helena and our online listeners
This recording will be aired on the downtown radio show tomorrow afternoon 17052016 at 1500 GMT on www.saint.fm
You can also listen to the interview online here.
Please click on the link to listen. Interview J Clingham – Adam Smith and Sasha Hogan or here
If you think Keith deserves a lift after reaching this line in the story then please donate here https://www.gofundme.com/Liftkeith
Dont forget to leave a comment on the way out. Thank you for your support.