South London mum remembers daughter whose final wish lit up the neighbourhood

Posted on 21st Dec 2022

“Every time we see a Christmas light, we’ll think of Ellie”: South London Mum remembers beloved daughter whose final wish ‘lit up the whole neighbourhood’

Maria Georgiou, from Catford, has spoken out about the tragic death of her 17-year-old daughter Ellie earlier this year - as the family approach the one-year anniversary of Ellie’s final wish for a ‘Christmas winter wonderland at home’. As the charity Make-A-Wish UK launches its 2022 Christmas Appeal, Maria and her son James have recalled the ‘pure happiness among all the sadness’, when Ellie’s wish quite literally 'lit up’ their lives.

“We never really spoke about death,” said Maria. “Ellie just wanted the people around her to be happy. She was such a lovely, thoughtful girl, and she didn’t want her illness to stop us from doing things. So, we just got on with things. Her strength kept us going.”

Ellie was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma - a rare cancer of the lymphatic system - at just 15 years old. Despite multiple rounds of chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiotherapy and a stem cell transplant, Ellie’s family were given the awful news that treatment was no longer working in September 2021.

When Ellie was invited to choose a wish from the charity Make-A-Wish UK, she was inspired by a much-loved family tradition.

“Every Christmas, we would all drive around where we live and look at the amazing lights on all the big houses,’ remembered Maria. ‘It brought us together. Ellie loved that – she loved being together and loved Christmas, so she wished to have ‘a Christmas winter wonderland at home’.”

In December 2021, Make-A-Wish UK made Ellie’s wish come true by covering her house in South London with lights, decorations, and even an enormous light-up tree in the family driveway. Maria said: “The whole neighbourhood was lit up by the lights – just like Ellie lit up all our lives. Seeing her face when she first saw the lights was a moment of pure happiness among all the sadness of what was happening. I remember her saying it was one of the best days of her life. It gave us such joy.”

Heartbreakingly, Ellie passed away less than a fortnight after her final Christmas – on the very same day that the lights of her wish were switched off.

“It was the 11th of January,” said Maria. “We went to pick up her brother James from home, and Ellie saw that the lights had been switched off. She said: “oh, it’s not Christmas anymore”. When we got back to the hospital, she asked to sit with me in the car before we went inside. Just me. I asked if she was okay, and she said: “I just want to sit here with you for a minute.” It was like she was saying goodbye.”

Ellie died later that same day, at just 17 years old.

Maria and James are now sharing Ellie’s story as part of Make-A-Wish UK’s Christmas Appeal, which hopes to make more magical wishes come true for critically ill children like Ellie this Christmas.

Steph Sherwood, Head of Wishgranting at Make-A-Wish UK, said: “This Christmas, over 63,000 children just like Ellie across the UK are living with a critical condition. Those 63,000 may not know how many Christmases they have left with their loved ones. Your donation can help grant a wish this Christmas, bringing joy and light back to families in the darkest of times.”

As Christmas approaches, Maria and James are determined to honour Ellie’s love of the festive season. They plan to decorate the house with as many lights as possible to keep her memory alive, and Maria will still buy Ellie presents; which she then plans to donate to children at their local hospital.

Maria is also creating a Christmas Lights Trail in Ellie's memory which will culminate in a community walk on the 24th December– just like she used to do with Ellie and James.

Maria said: “This Christmas will be our first without Ellie. Even though we won’t have her with us, every time we see a Christmas light, we’ll think of Ellie and how she lit up the world around her. Sometimes we don’t realise how the smallest thing can make the biggest difference in someone’s life. Ellie’s wish meant everything to her, and it still means everything to us which is why these trails will be so special.”

Media contact

Simon Henry
Make-A-Wish UK Communications
[email protected]
07786 650922
Make-A-Wish UK, 7th Floor, Thames Tower, Station Road, Reading, RG1 1LX

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About Make-A-Wish UK

Every day, the lives of 10 families in the UK are changed forever when a child is diagnosed with a serious illness. From that moment, childhood takes a backseat to medical appointments and worry. A wish helps to restore that childhood and puts worry on the backseat. It provides an opportunity to choose something positive to look forward to and the chance to be a child first and a patient second.

Make-A-Wish UK is a registered charity that was established in the UK in 1986 to support children and young people diagnosed with a serious illness or life-limiting condition, by granting them their dearest wish. The charity receives no Government funding - registered charity numbers: 295672 in England and Wales, SC037479 in Scotland.

Notes to editors

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