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Writing a charity children's book for my dad

Andy’s raising funds for the BLF with a children’s book dedicated in his dad’s memory.

Andy with his father, May 1984When my dad found out he had idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), it was already too late - there was nothing more that could be done to slow down his condition.

He found it impossible to tell my sister and me. I could see that he was seriously ill, not just because of the oxygen tank that he had started using, but also because of the way he spoke and how he couldn't hold back the sadness in his eyes when he spoke to me.

It was only when I put my mum on the spot that we learned his diagnosis, and even she didn't realise how advanced it was. Less than a week later, he passed away, and it hit us all like a freight train.

For a long time, I thought it had all happened so suddenly, but now I realise he had been struggling with breathing problems for a few years and it just hadn't been picked up.

IPF claims the lives of over 5,000 people every year – a similar number to more well-known conditions like leukaemia – yet too often the symptoms are missed and people don’t get the treatment they need. The BLF is working hard to change this with their IPF campaign.

Childhood inspiration

My dad was very modest; kind but instinctively mischievous. Nothing came before his family. Nothing ever came close.

He loved gardening and he loved taking us on day trips, mainly to the New Forest where we could take our bikes or have a picnic in a clearing amongst the trees or bracken. The day trips that we shared with him are what I now remember the most.

A friend has a little girl of a similar age to my son. She gave him a balloon one day and she tried to say what it was. She called it a Hoobaloo. It was one of those words when you think, “Ok, your word is a lot better than ours.” It put an image in my mind, going back to those childhood memories with my Dad, and the words fell out of my head and onto the page as a poem.

The story is very simple. A red balloon is drifting across the countryside and passes characters who want to befriend it along its journey. A young boy then sees it as he reads his book and tries to catch it.

I think Dad would have enjoyed putting on silly voices for the characters and making my children laugh.

A tribute and a cause

The Last Hoobaloo children

I’d never written a children’s book before and never illustrated one either, but I knew that it would be a fitting tribute to my Dad – and a fantastic way to raise money for the BLF. 100% of the profits will be going to the charity to help continue their research and support for people living with IPF.

So far it’s raised just over £1,000 in 4 months and still going strong. I’ve enjoyed an incredible amount of support from my colleagues at work and have made some new friends along the way.

Most importantly of all, it's brought the work of the British Lung Foundation to the attention of many people who were not aware of the work they do to change lives.

If just more one family benefits from their help, then it’s more than worth the effort.

The Last Hoobaloo is available to buy online from Boolino, Blackwell, Waterstones and Amazon. 100% of the profits will go to the BLF. Find out more about the book and Andy’s experience.

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22 June 2015