Parents of dying four-year-old boy set up happiness foundation in his name – after he said his last wish was for them ‘to make other children smile’
The parents of a cancer stricken boy who adored superheroes have revealed their son’s dying wish – that they make other children smile after his death.
Showing courage beyond his years, four-year-old Henry Allen decided to end treatment for a rare neuroblastoma cancer so he could go home.
The youngster, who always dressed as Batman, had battled the illness for two years, when he announced: ‘It isn’t going to work mummy. I think I should go home to my bed and my toys.’
His parents Dawn, 37, and Mark Allen, 36, from Milton Keynes, had been agonising over how long to continue treatment after being told it was in vain – until brave Henry made the decision for them.
He even refused to open toys, knowing he would not get the chance to play with them, and insisted they be given to the hospital instead.
To fulfil Henry’s dying wish, his parents have now set up a trust to spread joy in his name. Dubbed Henry’s Happiness Trust, it has already brought cheer to other youngsters battling cancer.
‘Henry wanted to be like Superman and Batman but he was far more amazing than both of them put together,’ said Mrs Allen, a teaching assistant.
‘He was a real life superhero who, despite his own illness, went out of his way to make all the other poorly children smile.
‘Henry always had a smile for everyone and his dying wish was for us to make other children smile too. Saying goodbye to our superhero broke our hearts but fulfilling his dying wish to spread happiness and joy keeps us going.
‘Henry’s cancer was missed many times but we refuse to be bitter or angry because ultimately we just feel so lucky to have had such an amazing little boy.’
Mrs Allen and her husband Mark, a development and design manager, had feared they could not have a baby after four years of trying and were looking into adoption when Dawn learned she was expecting Henry whom she describes as being her ‘miracle.
‘We felt like the luckiest parents alive,’ she recalls. ‘Henry was such an easy going loveable baby. People would stop me in the street to tell me how gorgeous his big smile was.’
But when Henry fell ill as a toddler, Mrs Allen, initially told it was nothing to worry about, was left devastated when a stage four neuroblastoma was diagnosed.
‘We just put our arms around each other and sobbed,’ says the grieving mother. ‘He was given a 20 per cent chance of survival and like any parent in that situation, we prayed he would be in that 20 per cent.’
The next day, the little boy started chemotherapy to shrink tumours in his tummy and liver. But far from being miserable, happy Henry treated it all as one great big adventure.
When doctors came to listen to his heart, he’d roar like a lion to make them laugh and then high five the nurses.
Dressed in one of his favourite superhero costumes, he’d stroll around the ward giving out ‘Henry hugs’ to cheer up all the other sick children.
Just after his third birthday, he had two operations to remove the tumours followed by more chemotherapy.
He even kept smiling even when his hair fell out but after just a few months, the cancer returned once more.
To his parents it was a huge blow but Henry took it in his stride and when he was admitted to hospital over Easter he organised an egg and spoon race for the other young patients.
‘That was typical,’ says Mrs Allen. ‘We’d been dealt a terrible blow but here he was organising fun for everyone and making them all laugh and giggle.
‘The children raced up and down the ward dodging machines and cheering. Henry was always happy no matter what. Seeing the joy he brought left us in no doubt that he was a superhero.’
In fact, a close friend made Henry his own superhero cape emblazoned with a H. ‘He was thrilled, he absolutely loved it,’ says Mrs Allen.
‘He started wearing it around the ward and became known as Super Henry. What he was doing was incredible and we just hoped that he had the power to fight the cancer as well as making everyone laugh and smile.’
But more scans revealed new tumours in his liver, oesophagus and abdomen.
That’s when consultants called Dawn and Mark into a side room and broke the devastating news that Henry might have as little as six weeks left.
‘We were floored,’ says Mrs Allen. ‘I begged them to try and save him. He was my miracle. She told me she would do her best because the whole ward loved Henry.
‘I was so moved but still struggled to take it in.’
But Henry had other ideas. The next day, he asked his mother to nip out for while. While she was gone, Henry took all the Lego from the playroom and turned his room into a mini Legoland.
‘When I got back there was Lego everywhere,’ she says. ‘He’d even drawn paper tickets and gave them out to all the other children on the ward and invited them to come and visit Legoland.’
But later that day as he slept, one of his regular nurses came in to check on him and emotional Mrs Allen turned to her for advice.
‘I asked her how we would know when it was time to stop the treatment now he was terminal. But as she went to open her mouth to answer I heard a little voice and it was Henry.
‘He just looked up at me and said: “Mummy it isn’t going to work. I think I should go home to my bed and my toys.”
‘My heart was literally breaking in half as he spoke but deep down I knew he was right. He may have only been four years old but he was telling me what he wanted.
‘This was how Henry wanted to spend his time and as heartbreaking as it was for us as parents, those were his wishes.’
The following day the couple took him home but Mrs Allen, conscious that time was running out, was desperate for Henry to enjoy one last Christmas.
‘So in October 2013, friends turned the family’s garden into a winter wonderland complete with Father Christmas, presents and even horses dressed as reindeer.
‘Henry was weak but his face lit up,’ says his mother. ‘Only when he saw the pile of presents he didn’t want to open them:
‘He said: “It’s OK mummy and daddy. My friends will play with them. You need to help the other children now”.
‘We looked at each other because he was telling us he knew he was never going to play with those toys and he was telling us wanted he wanted us to do.’
Three days later, the youngster died peacefully on the sofa at home while holding his parents’ hands.
They decided his funeral should be a celebration of his life with a Spiderman casket pulled by Ninja Turtles.
And they wasted no time in fulfilling Henry’s wish that they spread happiness by helping other children by setting up the Henry Allen Trust.
So far they’ve arranged visits to sick children from their favourite characters, fun days out, guitar lessons from reality TV stars and gifts.
‘It’s hard without Henry but keeping others kids smiling the way he used to keeps us going,’ says Mrs Allen.
‘We may not have had him for long but we will always feel so very lucky that Henry the little Superhero was ours.’
To help the trust spread happiness to children battling cancer please visit https://www.justgiving.com/henryallentrust