Email gaffe leaves children’s charity outraged

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The founders of a children’s charity are angry after an email gaffe by a senior member of staff at a county school questioned its plans for a fundraising pyjama day.

Brooke Weston Academy in Corby was one of 36 schools in Northamptonshire contacted yesterday (Monday, January 21) by the charity Chelsea’s Angels to ask if it would support the event on May 24.

The charity’s co-founder Michelle Tomkins received an email reply from the school’s vice-principal Mark Willimott, which was clearly not intended for her but said: “Am I missing something? FYI although (sic) are they aiming for a paedophile’s paradise? Loads of kids walking to school in pyjamas? Mark.”

Brooke Weston’s principal Trish Stringer has apologised to the charity for the remarks.

Chelsea’s Angels was formed in memory of Chelsea Knighton, of Irthlingborough, who died in 2009, aged three, from acute neuroblastoma, a form of cancer.

It supports children with rare forms of the disease and their families and has helped 150 young patients and raised more than £70,000 in the past three years.

Its co-founders, Chelsea’s mum Emma Knighton and Michelle Tomkins, say although the emailed response was obviously not intended for them, they are upset and angry at Mr Willimott’s comments.

In a statement they said: “We work hard as a charity to raise money for children with rare forms of cancer by holding a variety of events.

“The money we raise helps many children and their families while coping with this illness.

“As part of that, we approached the school to hold a fundraising event which was an innocent pyjama day.

“We do not agree with the comments of this teacher and I am sure the children and the families we help would not agree either.

“We await an explanation as to why we received such a reply.

“Chelsea’s mum is very upset and angry with the response as she would never want her daughter’s memory associated with this kind of comment.”

The charity’s email to the school outlined its achievements and how it helps young cancer patients and their families, offering to send out posters and an information pack on the planned event.

However, despite contacting Mr Willimott by email expressing their upset and seeking an explanation for his comments, the co-founders of Chelsea’s Angels have not, so far, received a reply from him.

Principal Trish Stringer said: “This was a private, internal email which was sent to the charity inadvertently. This was regrettable and I have apologised to the charity personally and also discussed the issue with the member of staff. We have offered to hold a mufti day to raise funds that will generate in excess of £1,000. However we do not support pyjama days, primarily because we do not think it appropriate for students to come to school in night attire. We constantly reinforce the message that they should stay safe, both online and in the real world, and we are confident that our staff and parents understand and support this view.

“Over the past few years Brooke Weston Academy has raised thousands of pounds for charity in a variety of innovative ways, from Christmas markets, car washes, sports events, auctions, sponsored silences and mufti days. We are particularly supportive of cancer charities and have already raised £16,000 for the Teenage Cancer Trust, as well as funds for Myeloma UK. Therefore we look forward to presenting Chelsea’s Angels with a charity cheque as we appreciate the important work that they carry out.”