Throwing starfish into the ocean.....

I bought myself this necklace this week, I had just picked Daisy up from an overnight respite stay at Shooting Star Chase and dropped her off to school and I was in town picking up some bits I needed when I saw this necklace in a window, and I had to have it.
It wasn't that I wanted to treat myself to something pretty, it was the starfish that drew my attention.  I have always loved starfish, they have a special significance in my life.  I remember happy family holidays on the Gower Peninsula in Wales rockpooling with my Dad and finding starfish and anenomes and sea urchins and taking our sea treasure home to look up the names and species in my Spotters Guide to Wildlife Book.
Many years later Starfish became symbolic to me when we ended up on the neurology ward at Great Ormond Street.  At that time the neurology long stay ward was called Starfish and Daisy had been transferred there following a stay in intensive care as there was a concern at that point that her condition was neurodegenerative.  We had already been in GOS for over a month and this was our third ward with yet another speciality becoming involved.  
On the wall of the ward was a beautifully illustrated picture of a boy throwing a starfish into the sea, and next to it was this story:
Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.
One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.
As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.
He came closer still and called out "Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?"
The young man paused, looked up, and replied "Throwing starfish into the ocean."
"I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?" asked the somewhat startled wise man.
To this, the young man replied, "The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die."
Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, "But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!"
At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, "It made a difference for that one!"
1n 1982 the world's first children's hospice opened its door.  Located near Oxford the idea for a children's hospice sprang from the friendship between Sister Frances Dominica and the parents of a seriously ill little girl called Helen who lived at home with her family but required 24 hour care. Helen House offered a home from home for children with life-limiting conditions and provided care and support for the child and family at the end life.  From this one model there are now over 40 operational hospice services in the UK supporting thousands of families.  I like to think of Sister Frances Dominica as being like the boy on the beach, she was not able to help every child but she has made a difference to so many and through her example others have followed.
It is so easy to say, "I can't be bothered", "It won't make a difference", "Well, I can't help everyone", but in little ways we can all make a difference.  Luke Tillen and Vikki George are also people who refuse to give up when people tell them the task is too immense for them to make an impact;
Luke founded a Charity called Torbay Holiday Helper's Network, it provides free holidays to Devon for families of seriously ill children and bereaved families.  Luke doesn't have a disabled child, or as far as I know have any experience of caring for a disabled child but he had the idea to set up the charity in 2009 after watching the TV programme "The Secret Millionaire".  Luke is not a millionaire, but he had a lot of contacts in the Torbay area of Devon and he developed an idea that has grown and grown.
Similarly, Vikki George runs a charity called PostPals, they help brighten the days of sick and seriously ill children by sending them post and gifts via a network of volunteers.Vikki is bed-bound with severe ME but she has not let her own illness prevent her from thinking of others.
I bought myself the starfish necklace to remind myself of this story which has so much resonance with me.  Yes, I have a busy life, yes, I probably have less time than the average mother, but, I can, in my own way make a difference.  Sister Helen Domenica's  work has inspired a whole movement.  As you all know our own hospice, ShootingStar Chase, is our lifeline.  The spare time I have in my life is devoted to helping promote their work and fundraise for them, so at least 3 times a week I pull on my running shoes and pound the streets to train up for the 7 race challenge I am undertaking for them.  Sunday 27th May is race 3, the Bupa London 10K.
Like the boy on the beach, like Sister Frances, like Luke, like Vikki, we can all make a difference.....
Torbay Holiday Helper's Network - Giving families memories to treasure forever
Postpals - Put a smile on a sick child's face
ShootingStar Chase - go the extra mile campaign

And for a really, really easy way to make a difference why not sign up for Give As You Live where you can earn money for your favourite charity every time you shop online
Find out more about my challenge for ShootingStar Chase here


  1. What a coincidence, I blogged about the exact same story only a week ago! Do have a read if you'd like:

  2. Luke Tillen6:14 am

    Beautiful Steph! Thank you so much - that made me cry x

  3. Bob Vaughan7:55 am

    Reading This was so Uplifting, and Very Inspirational.
    It makes me realise how very Fortunate Most of us are
    and how we take what we have for Granted.
    For me personally at this time, have to make Lifestyle
    Changes due to my Health, I want to try and Help to Make
    a Difference. Life has given me so much Happiness and Joy
    over the Years, being an Entertainer, and Now I want to Give
    some of that Back, by spending some of the Time I have Now
    "Making a Difference " to the Lives of those Less Fortunate
    than the Majoirty of us.

    Thank You Steph, Thank You Luke, And Thank You Vikki.


  4. I too have loved this story for the same reason. I also have moved with the story now we foster children with special needs.

    I know we made a diffderence in Livvys short life I pray we make a difference in others lives both with our charity Livvy's Smile and with our fostering.

  5. making it as mum2:56 pm

    A truly inspiring post, i just found your blog via tots100 im dashing off on the school run now but will be back soon as i can see in the side bar  lots of other posts that resinate with me. Lovely blog so glad i found you x

  6. Looking for Blue Sky11:07 pm

    Really wonderful and I love the starfish story, I will be using it with my own kids xx

  7. I meant to say, when I first read Luke Tillen's story, I thought he was totally inspirational. It seems unusual to find people setting up amazing charities when they have no link or particular personal motivation to do so. And it's fantastic that Luke has inspired other similar charities to start up, like Alice Pyne's, and I know someone who wants to do the same in the (distant future)... a real inspiration.

  8. The story was reproduced in "Chicken Soup for the Soul" and an American female singer named Terry Gonda (whose partner I used to know many years ago - she is the second of the co-authors credited) wrote a song based on it, called Not This One:

  9. Brilliant. I know it sounds trite now, but I LOVE that necklace! I'd like a starfish all of my own to remind me to keep on trying to make a difference x