Loving father Chris Cookson receives an MBE for his services to charity through the Charlie and Carter Foundation
Loving father Chris Cookson, who tragically lost his two children to health complications, has been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list.
Chris, 43, and wife Sarah, 46, tragically lost their son Charlie in 2013 at just two-years-old. Charlie had been born with a number of life-limiting conditions and his parents were told “he would sadly not live very long”.
Tragedy then sadly struck the couple again in 2018 when Chris and Sarah lost their second child, Carter, who died at just three weeks old after being born with a heart condition.
Despite facing a level of trauma which is difficult to comprehend, Chris and Sarah used their own personal experience to look at how they could help other families facing similar adversity and set up what has now become the Charlie and Carter Foundation, in recognition of their two boys.
Chris said: “When Charlie passed away we thought what could we do in his honour. We looked at what would have helped me and Sarah most at the time and that would have been being able to spend more time with Charlie without the financial worries of paying the bills.
"You just want to spend as much time with your child as you can to care for them and ensure their quality of life is as good as possible. But you still have to work and the bills still keep coming in.”
Since then, Chris, with the support of his wife, has taken part in a host of fundraising activities including organising the annual Boxing Day dip on South Shields beach, taking part in the Great North Run and leading a trek from the Stadium of Light to St James’ Park.
The money raised by the foundation is used to provide up to £3,000 to support other families with children with life limiting conditions to be able to spend more time with their children without the additional burden of the financial pressure they had to endure.
To date, the Foundation has supported 83 families.
Chris added: “Hopefully this can create a little financial bubble for families – a lifeline for a few months to be able to perhaps go on holiday and create special memories with their children.”
Since Carter’s passing, the charity has been expanded to support the promotion of organ donation and providing help to those families whose children need an organ transplant.
Chris said: “In Carter’s case everything worked apart from his heart. He needed a donor but we couldn’t find one and in the end we ran out of time.”
Chris found out about his MBE by a letter but initially thought “it was a joke”. After eventually realising it was genuine, selfless Chris was keen to stress the award was also in recognition of the work of the charity and in particular his wife Sarah.
He said: “This is not just about me. Sarah carried and gave birth to our boys which is something as a man I can never experience what it must have been like. We set up the Foundation together and have always done this side by side – fifty fifty. This award is recognition for me and Sarah.”