Community steps up to pay for terminally ill dad’s funeral

Clockwise from left: Steph Twydell, JB John, Terry Coldwell, Andy Williams, Gill O'Malley, Mama from the Sitar in Boxmoor and Andy's two children, Leah, nine, and Harry, seven
Clockwise from left: Steph Twydell, JB John, Terry Coldwell, Andy Williams, Gill O'Malley, Mama from the Sitar in Boxmoor and Andy's two children, Leah, nine, and Harry, seven

A dad-of-two who has been told he only has weeks left to live says he is ‘overwhelmed’ after the community pulled together to help pay for his funeral.

Andy Williams, 43, of Saturn Way, Hemel Hempstead, was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer in June after being rushed to hospital.

The former binman, who is dad to Leah, nine, and seven-year-old Harry, was worried about his family struggling to pay his funeral expenses but now, thanks to an online crowdfunding page, he will get the send-off he truly deserves and a place where his children will be able to visit their dad.

Andy, who is originally from County Durham and has lived in Hemel for the past 12 years, said: “I cannot thank everyone enough for what they have done. I’m overwhelmed – it’s unbelievable.

“I never imagined this would happen in a million years. I’m on a high. People’s kindness has made me stronger.”

Since the page was set up by Andy’s friend Steph Twydell yesterday (August 6) morning, more than £800 of the £3,000 target has been donated and the total is growing by the hour.

Steph, who has known Andy for 10 years, said: “Andy’s daughter Leah is autistic and she’s finding the situation quite difficult to deal with, so for her to have somewhere to visit after her dad’s gone will make such a difference.”

And the acts of goodwill have not stopped stop there, as ever since Steph and her husband Mike took Andy to see his idols East 17 at a Just Be 90s evening in Hemel a couple of weeks ago, several other people have been stepping up to help the father-of-two.

Global DJ JB John helped organise the music event at the Marchmont Arms with Gill O’Malley, who holds it each year in memory of her 28-year-old son Josh who died from cancer in 2012.

He said: “Andy has been an East 17 fan from day one and once Steph told me his story, I knew I wanted to help. Because we were so busy on the night, we didn’t get to spend much time with Andy so we decided to surprise him.”

So on Wednesday evening (August 5) JB and East 17 singer Terry Coldwell visited Andy’s former partner’s home in Hemel with Gill and Mama from the Sitar Indian restaurant in Boxmoor, who provided a slap-up curry meal free of charge.

Andy, who had never seen his favourite band live until the night at the Marchmont, said: “When Terry walked in, I couldn’t believe it.

“The fact that he took time out of his day to come and see me was amazing. I can’t thank JB enough for organising it.

“If I didn’t have all these lovely people, I’d be on my own because I don’t have any brothers and sisters. I can’t thank them all enough.”

East 17 singer Terry, whose girlfiend lives in Hemel, said: “When JB told me about Andy’s story, and that he couldn’t afford his own funeral, I couldn’t believe it.

“I knew I had to help him.

“JB asked me if I could do him a favour and go see Andy at home, so I told him: ‘Of course I will’.

“I spent time with Andy and when I came away, I felt so touched. He’s a lovely guy.”

Terry presented a speechless Andy with two signed East 17 T-shirts, which he plans to have framed.

More donations came flooding in after Gill, who held the Marchmont Arms fundraiser for Rennie Grove Hospice Care, raised more than she expected and made the choice to donate £200 to Andy following the charity event.

J & S Funeral Services in Abbots Langley has also stepped up to help, national charity Cancer Relief UK have donated a sum to Andy’s cause and Haven Holidays, which has its head office in the town, has also donated the use of a caravan for Andy and his family to get away for a few days.

Andy’s friend Steph said: “Andy has always worked his whole life and he’s well known in the community. I call him the BFG because of his gentle approach.

“He’s such an inspiration to me because even though he’s in pain, he still smiles every day and is always worried about how everyone else is feeling.”

Steph, who is a mother-of-two herself, said the situation had ‘brought out the best of Hemel’ and she was touched at the kindness of strangers.

She said: “We had an early birthday for Andy the other day, and the Top Banana party shop on The Heights in Hemel donated a bouncy castle for the children to enjoy.”

If you would like to donate, visit the fundraising page here.

Two weeks ago, children living on Andy’s road began collecting donations for him outside their local Co-Op branch, raising more than £500.

Read the initial story here.