Y12 student Caitlin Ronan who studied A-levels in Business, Maths and Accounting at JM Sixth Form and was a member of the Sixth Form Student Leadership Team as a Charity Co-ordinator, suffered from a progressive neurological disease called CIDP (Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy). It was with great sadness that we heard of Caitlin’s passing on 17 November following a rapid deterioration in her health. Everyone who met Caitlin, especially in the last few years, was always truly inspired by her amazing love of life, her tenacity, her beautiful singing voice and her absolute determination to get the most out of her dreadfully short and sometimes very difficult life.
Caitlin raised a total of over £33k (including donations received offline) towards Eyegaze systems. She received one herself (which is now going to be gifted to another young person in a similar situation to Caitlin as soon as they have been identified). Finlay and Myzat have each received an Eyegaze System and Smartbox, together with Caitlins’ parents, they are going to try and identify a further two young people to donate Eyegaze Systems to with the remainder of the money.
Throughout 2015-16 John Masefield High school students arranged a number of fundraising Eyegaze events raising a total of £911.35, including cake sales and a sponsored walk by the Sixth Form. A number of Sixth Formers established firm friendships with Caitlin and were frequent visitors to her house to chat and watch films. Many of the fundraising ideas for Children in Need were Caitlin’s and this year the Sixth Form raised £220 (doubling previous efforts).
As a thank you for all the support, the family wanted to share an article Caitlin wrote on Sunday 13 November 2016:
I hope everyone enjoyed their summer holidays but like me I assume they are either busy back at work or to study – I have started my second year of A Level studies – I am studying Maths, Accounting and Business Studies A Levels with the final exams taking place next summer. I had a busy summer with lots of visitors both family and friends from all over the world and was able to show them how my Eyegaze System worked!
I have two pieces of exciting fundraising news: the first from my former high school ‘Bishops of Hereford Bluecoat School’ where I was one of three recipients from their fundraising efforts from the last academic year, being awarded £1,300. Two members of staff and two pupils came to present the cheque, staying for a chat and were able to see the Eyegaze System in action! I am so delighted and thankful for all their amazing fundraising efforts. Secondly, when I looked at my Go Fund Me page in October I saw that a very kind gentleman called Cliffe Crowther had donated a huge individual amount of £600 – thank you so much for your generosity!
I also wanted to share the news that Smartbox (the company who I bought the Eyegaze System from) asked me earlier in the year whether I would like to get involved in making some marketing videos for them which could also be used by me as a fundraising tool. I jumped at the chance and spent a couple of days making the videos with them which I really enjoyed. In October Smartbox’s first article and video was shared on their website and via social media. It introduces my story and later in the year Smartbox will be sharing a second video all about my fundraising campaign. Here’s the link to the first article shared by Smartbox – I hope you enjoy it: https://thinksmartbox.com/news/caitlins-eye-gaze-story/
I also have some exciting news to share with you about the third recipient of an Eyegaze System which I am very excited about. Yesterday Mum and I told a young 5 year old girl from London called Myzat and her Mum that she would be receiving an Eyegaze System as soon as possible. Myzat is a regular, happy, sociable member of her Year 1 class in a lively, richly diverse inner city mainstream primary school. She has Spinal Muscular Atrophy type 2 and breathes with the aid of a tracheostomy, needing to be ventilated 24 hours a day. Myzat has very little muscle tone so uses an electric wheelchair which she can control using the movement in her fingers. This has transformed her life in school in that she can now make choices about where she wants to go. Myzat has very limited movement and very little strength in her fingers, and they tend to move all at once rather than individually. This is a hugely limiting factor in her ability to record her learning in any way so the new Eyegaze system will have a huge impact on her life and learning.
Thanks again for everyone’s amazing fundraising efforts.
Lucy, Caitlin’s elder sister has set up ‘Caitlin’s Stars’ to raise money in Caitlin’s memory https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Caitlins-Stars. This page is being used to share photos of Caitlin and videos of Caitlin but also to raise money in Caitlin’s honour. Caitlin felt very passionately about disabled actors being able to perform alongside able bodied actors on stage and we found a company called ‘The Graeae Theatre Company’ based in London which not only does that with productions worldwide but also gives them the same professional training that pupils would receive at other drama schools.
If anyone would like to donate in her memory we would prefer if you could donate in that way rather than to her Eyegaze Campaign, as we do not want to do any more fundraising until we have allocated the existing money to worthy recipients of Eyegaze Systems.
Louise, Sean and Lucy Ronan
John Masefield High School and Sixth Form students wore a vast array of Christmas jumpers in December and along with donations from the Christmas Carol Concert have just donated £519 to Caitlin’s Stars.