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New support service will keep memory of Leeds baby alive

Kitty Doerfler with mum Sarah on her first birthday and getting a kiss from brother Max.

Kitty Doerfler with mum Sarah on her first birthday and getting a kiss from brother Max.

A new service for families in Leeds has been named after a seriously-ill baby who died at just 15 months old.

Kitty’s Smile is a partnership between Leeds Jewish Welfare Board (LJWB) and Camp Simcha, which aims to improve the quality of life for Jewish children and their families, coping with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.

It takes its name from little Kitty Doerfler, who was born with congenital acute lymphoblastic leukaemia and spent her short life battling the deadly disease before dying in her mother’s arms just a few months after her first birthday.

Sarah Doerfler said it was a wonderful legacy that would keep her little girl’s memory alive forever. The 35-year-old, from North Leeds, said: “One of the most upsetting things when you’ve lost anyone is that you constantly remember them but you worry that other people will forget them.

“So the fact that this will keep her in people’s hearts and minds is just fantastic.”

Just two weeks after Kitty was born at St James’s Hospital in Leeds she was diagnosed with the rare disease.

She spent the next nine months receiving chemotherapy, which ravaged her little body.

The disease was then deemed terminal and from that moment on her family knew each day could be her last.

Sarah said Max, now nine, had coped admirably with his little sister’s illness but after her death he struggled to adapt.

The primary school teacher said the great thing about Kitty’s Smile was the focus on providing one-to-one help and positive experiences for siblings of poorly youngsters – many of whom “suffer terribly”.

And rather than family support kicking in after a terminal diagnosis, as in their case, with Kitty’s Smile it would be there right from the start.

LJWB plans to use its local knowledge to identify any families in need.

London-based charity Camp Simcha – which has already helped 150 families around the country – will provide the specialist service.

 

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