Clara the Chinchilla, with Gabriel the Giraffe, Oscar the Ox and Ted the Turtle, are much, much more than cute illustrations on a seasonal card.
They’re all inspired by real children who are important in the life of April Prendergast, founder of Prenderland Books, which she set up to inspire children to read and have even more fun with books.
Ted and Oscar are nephews, Gabriel’s a godson and Clara is a much-loved goddaughter, son and daughter of April’s friends Claire and Stefan. Other characters include Jemima the Jaguar, Clara’s sister.
Clara died from pneumococcal meningitis and septicaemia when she was just 10 months old.
Heart is broken
Clara’s mother Claire said: “My heart is truly broken. After surviving a life threatening brain tumour I thought nothing can be any worse and I felt overwhelmed with excitement to face every day knowing I would have the time I’d longed for to watch my children grow, especially Clara who was only 18 weeks old when I was diagnosed."
“She was the strength I needed to face my fears and the light at the end of my tunnel.”
But on Sunday 3 October 2010 Clara had a temperature and a runny nose. This was initially put down to a new tooth they’d counted the day before.
In fact it was much more serious. Clara had contracted meningitis and despite being seen by her GP and rushed to hospital the disease proved too much for the brave youngster.
Brave in heart and spirit
“Clara fought all night against the destruction of meningitis, but though brave in heart and spirit she wasn't strong enough for the evil consuming her,” Claire added. “After watching her little body fight for 14 hours I was given no option other than to hold her as tight as I could while we took her ventilator away."
“Clara continued to fight in my arms until her very last heartbeat, the moment I wished mine would stop too.”
Since that sad day Claire and Stefan are raising as much awareness as they can about the disease that stole their daughter’s life.
Which is where our Christmas card this year comes in – a loving tribute to this special young girl, who lives on in the hearts of her family and friends. Claire’s friend and Clara’s Godmother April got in touch with us to ask if it would be possible to donate the card to raise awareness in Clara’s memory.
We, of course, were delighted to accept this generous offer. And so, working with her wonderful illustrator at Prenderland Books, Carole Chevalier, the Clara and Friends card was born.
“The four characters that we used on this card are Clara the Chinchilla, Gabriel the Giraffe, Oscar the Ox and Ted the Turtle,” April explained. “There are eight stockings on the scene because Clara was born on 8 December. There are bows on the tree because Clara always wore beautiful bows in her hair. We put bows on our Christmas tree every Christmas to make sure Clara is part of our celebrations.”
“I hope lots of people enjoy having Clara and her friends in their home this Christmas. I hope the card brings a smile to people's faces because Clara had such a beautiful smile and brought a smile to the face of everyone that met her."
“I hope that people talk about Clara and the Christmas Card to their friends and family to help us raise awareness of meningitis."
“I love Clara with all my heart and when we lost her to meningitis I promised that I would do everything I could to raise awareness of this devastating disease."
“I miss her every single day and although nothing we can do will bring her back to us, I hope that by raising awareness we can help others."
“The incredibly sad reality is that many families are going to be affected by meningitis this Christmas and it absolutely breaks my heart. I wish I could be with every one of them to hold their hands. Please let's do everything we can to help prevent this illness.”
So, if you’re looking for a card with a special meaning this festive season, why not choose Clara and Friends from our selection here and help us continue to raise awareness, fund vital research and provide support for those who need us, not just at Christmas-time but all year round.
And if you want to read more about Clara and her friends have a look at the Prenderland website here.