THE strength of character shown by a brave little girl will shine through at a festive fund-raiser in Moray.
Aila Coull died in September, holding her parents’ hands, at the age of just 16 months, after a brave battle with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML).
Her parents, Sine and Fraser, who live in Elgin, have set up a foundation in her memory to fund better treatments for other youngsters.
Bone marrow transplant is a crucial part of the treatment required for AML, and the Anthony Nolan Trust worked tirelessly to find a match for Aila, but she never got the chance to use any of the matches they found.
Finding a good donor match can be difficult in some cases, so the family are urging as many people as possible to add their names to the register.
Their appeal will receive a boost before Christmas when Moray Concert Brass stages its annual charity concert at Elgin Cathedral.
All proceeds from ‘Carols at the Cathedral’ on Saturday, December 22 will go to the Aila Coull Foundation.
Leader Glenn Munro said Aila’s "gentle but strong nature" had been an inspiration to her parents and others.
She was diagnosed in March this year, and after five months of gruelling chemotherapy, a genetic mutation saw her condition deteriorate, and she died on September 2.
Sine, a former member of the band, said they were delighted that the concert will raise money and awareness for the foundation.
"Aila’s strength of character has touched so many hearts, Glenn’s being one of them, and we just hope that with her Foundation, we can help find better treatments for this horrible disease and her suffering will not have been in vain," she said.
"I’ve known Glenn for many years, being an ex-member of the band, and he was really keen straight away to start helping us. We are so grateful."
AML accounts for fewer than 20% of childhood leukaemias, and is usually found in adults, where the majority of research is focused, but the condition behaves very differently in children.
There is only a 60% five-year survival rate with this paediatric cancer, which varies hugely according to each patient’s particular genetic problems.
Aila’s parents, who hail originally from Buckie, were inspired to raise awareness of AML and promote the work of the Anthony Nolan Trust.
The band will continue their fund-raising for the foundation in the new year with a ‘Magical Moments’ concert, also in memory of Aila.
The concert, at Elgin Town Hall on Saturday, January 19 at 2.30pm, will include a popular selection of music from the movies, aimed at children of all ages.
"Whether you are young in age or young at heart, the band will have something for everyone," said Glenn.
The programme will include some of Aila’s favourite music, including ‘When You Wish upon a Star’, from ‘Pinocchio’, and ‘Tomorrow’, from ‘Annie’. The concert will also include music from ‘The Jungle Book’ and ‘Mary Poppins’.
The band are encouraging children to dress up as their favourite movie character, and there will be a prize for the best costume.
Glenn added: "We are hoping to create a fantastic atmosphere for young and old, and show just how magical music can be."
Tickets are available from Bijou in Batchen Street, Elgin, and JP Pozzi, High Street, Buckie. They can also be booked by phoning 07979 991929.
"Moray Concert Brass, which is run as part of the Moray Council’s Music Centre, are honoured to be able to help raise funds and awareness for such an important cause," added Glenn.
Following a highly successful tour to Germany this year, band members are now looking forward to their next concert tour, to Belgium in August, 2014.
They will be actively fund-raising over the next 18 months to raise the sum of £15,000, which will make the trip affordable for all members of the band.
Plans in the pipeline include a new ‘Magical Moments’ CD and performances at Tesco, Elgin and Elgin High Street.
The Aila Coull Foundation has its own Facebook page, which has received more than 1,300 ‘likes’ in little over a month, where updates and messages can be posted.
Log on to www.facebook.com/theailacoullfoundation
The cathedral gates will open at 5.30pm on December 22, with the concert starting at 6pm.
If you are interested in having Moray Concert Brass perform at an event or would like to sponsor the band, you can contact the band through Facebook, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 07979 991929.