Buxted teenager Ellis Hunter is raising funds for the Little Princess Trust in memory of his girlfriend Melissa Newell who died suddenly during the Christmas holidays.
Melissa, from Manor Park, Uckfield, had already decided to donate her own hair to the charity knowing she would lose it during chemotherapy treatment for the cancer she had just been diagnosed with.
Ellis had told her he would have his head shaved to keep her company and now is going ahead with that pledge in her memory.
He has set up a JustGiving page where he says:
“Melissa, my beautiful girlfriend, was taken away from us on Thursday, December 29. She was bravely fighting cancer.
“Everyone who knew her understood what a generous and charitable girl she was, who did nothing but love.
“The donation can be as little or as large as you like and there is no target. Any amount for the charity she felt so passionate about, would be appreciated.”
Tributes have poured in for Melissa – daughter of Susan and David, and sister of Alexander, 18 – who attended Uckfield Community Technology College, worked part-time at Cheese Etc and used to be a member of the Universal Dance elite youth dance company Graffiti.
She was studying for her AS levels and wanted to be a counsellor. She had begun volunteering with Young Carers to gain work experience and hoped to go on to study psychology.
After being diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in December Melissa was transferred to a teenage cancer ward at University College Hospital, London, and told her mother, Susan, that she would like to work as a counsellor on a similar ward in the future.
Melissa was disappointed she would not be able to become a blood donor because of the cancer but pleased to be able to donate her long hair to the Little Princess Trust, a charity that provides real hair wigs for children suffering with hair loss. Twenty inches of her locks are ready to be sent off.
Ellis – son of Tara and Neil Hunter, and brother of Alex, 27, and Lucy, 25 – will be having his head shaved on Friday, February 3, at 4pm at PHD Barbers in Uckfield High Street.
As Melissa did, he attends Uckfield Community Technology College where he is in the first year of sixth form. He coaches tennis at Rocks Park and Holy Cross schools and for Le Tennis, plays cricket for Maresfield Cricket Club, and also does performance magic.
He has a regular slot at the Buxted Inn and appears at various functions locally including Buxted Park Hotel, and Barnsgate, usually at weddings and anniversary parties.
Ellis and Melissa met at the college – he only started there in September, having previously attended St Paul’s at Burgess Hill – and had only been together for a few months. They had immediately integrated into each other’s families and both mothers recognised the teenagers had a special relationship.
Susan said that if Ellis felt about Melissa the way she felt about him their relationship would have lasted a very long time. Ellis gave Melissa self-confidence and self-belief.
They constantly phoned and texted each other and when Melissa was diagnosed with cancer Ellis never wavered. Susan said: “He said bring this on. We can do this. Both of them had such a good attitude. Of course it was hard, of course there were tears, but they were determined to deal with it.
“Ellis didn’t hide away for a moment, even traipsing up to London through the train strikes. The changes in Melissa didn’t faze him. Both of them were so positive.”
Ellis’ mum Tara said the young couple laughed a lot and were completely relaxed in each others’ company.
Tara added: “Melissa was lovely. She was an amazing girl, with a big personality, fun and easy to talk to. She has left a huge hole in all our lives.”
Everybody thought that after six months of treatment Melissa would be well again but that wasn’t to be because, as she began chemotherapy, she caught an infection which she was unable to fight off because chemotherapy suppresses the immune system.
Melissa’s funeral is due to take place at Tunbridge Wells crematorium today, Monday, January 16, at 4pm, to be followed by a gathering at the Cinque Ports Club, Uckfield.
If you would like to make a donation in Melissa’s memory please visit Ellis’s JustGiving page here.
Tributes to Melissa
Hugh Hennebry, principal of Uckfield Community Technology College, said: “Melissa was a very bright, bubbly, charismatic young person, who was full of energy, life and optimism. She contributed a huge amount to school life.
“In lessons she asked interesting questions and thought about her work in depth and with great humour. She always participated, always worked hard and enjoyed working with other students and getting involved in class debate, e.g. she was a passionate challenger of inequalities in society.
“Her outlook in life and her kind support for other people made her a very popular girl.”
Lindsay Willis, from Universal Dance, said: “It is with a heavy heart that UD remembers the life of a beautiful young lady, Melissa Newell, vibrant, bubbly and unbelievably kind.
“She touched the lives of so many of our dancers and was a part of some of our greatest achievements and fondest members.
“A Universal Dance and Youth Dance Company original, she will remain an inspiration and role model to us all. The Universal Dance family will never forget her.”
Martin Ferguson and Sharon Douglas from Cheese Etc told Uckfield News they would be attending Melissa’s funeral and would be closing the shop out of respect to Melissa, their first and youngest member of staff.
Martin said: “Melissa was a very bright, effervescent young lady who had so much to look forward to.
“She worked with us from day one and was here for our open evening. She always had a smile, she was always very polite. It was a terrible shock to hear she had died when what we had expected to hear was that she was getting better.”
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