Top riders and amateurs alike took to social media recently to show their support for Hannah Francis – an 18-year-old eventer currently battling an aggressive form of bone cancer – in the #inspiredbyhannah campaign.
Following an emotional Facebook post by Hannah, in which she said one of her greatest fears was that she might be forgotten when she does finally lose her brave battle against osteosarcomo, hundreds of image-based posts appeared across social media under the #inspiredbyhannah hashtag.
Hannah, who was diagnosed on 1 May 2015, is currently at Tattersalls Horse Trials in Ireland, where she has been riding the guinea pig dressage tests on her bay mare ‘Mavis’ to help the judges prepare for the one- and two-star competitions.
Hannah told H&H she “was totally overwhelmed by the sheer number of wonderful people who had come to watch Mavis and I ride”.
“There is a huge atmosphere here and I was delighted with how my superstar mare coped with absolutely everything. She really did try her very hardest for me and never stopped smiling either – well, neither did I – and we still haven’t stopped now.”
Willberry Wonder Pony fundraising
After reading about Hannah’s story on social media, Olivia Robertson set up the Willberry Wonder Pony website and Facebook page and started fundraising by selling wristbands.
The two Somerset-based riders had never met before, but are now best friends.
“Originally the campaign was set up to buy Hannah a wig, now 12 months on it is a registered charity helping others in her position,” said Miss Robertson.
The wristbands have been followed by onesies (made by All Stitched Up), base layers (from Charles James Fox), chocolates (from Choc on Choc), cross-country whips and Willberry hat silks (made by Uptown Eventing Store and Racesafe), and Willberry silver charm braclets (from Hiho Silver),
All the merchandise including the new mug range will be available to buy on a stand at Nunney Horse Trials on 17-19 June.
Hannah and Willberry’s new sponsor Kate Negus Saddlery is giving the charity a donation from each international leather-lined flash or cavesson it sells to help fundraising.
Artist Georgina Leigh is another supporter selling prints of the charity’s patron Ben Hobday with Willberry for £39.99.
A caricature by Charles James Fox of Ben Hobday, Willberry and Mr Mulry at Badminton has just been bought by for £2,500.
Riders can go round the cross-country course at this weekend’s Brand Hall Horse Trials (4-5 June) with one of the Willberry family strapped to them in return for a donation to the secretary. The offer is open to any CIC*, novice or BE90 competitor.
The next fundraiser is a mad hatter’s tea party on 3 July at Shepton Mallet. Tickets are on the Willberry Wonder Pony Facebook page.
So far Hannah’s Willberry Wonder Pony charity has raised over £115,000 to help seriously ill people fulfil their equine dreams.