THE Emma Hoolin appeal has captured the heart of celebrity chef Jean-Christophe Novelli.
On hearing of the Wigan youngster’s plight, the French culinary wizard immediately donated for auction some vouchers for his exclusive training academy.
Novelli was in town taking part in the annual Food and Drink Festival when he was told about the four-year-old Whitley girl’s battle with cancer.
Family are hoping that Emma is now nearing the end of sometimes punishing immunotherapy at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in the US which is aimed at preventing the return of a potentially deadly form of cancer.
Emma, who was diagnosed with a high risk neuroblastoma at the beginning of last year and had already undergone most conventional forms of cancer treatment, was faced with raising a massive £211,000 in less than 100 days in order to get the life-saving treatment.
And, thanks to a massive and enthusiastic charitable effort across the borough, the target was hit in 38 days less than that.
Novelli heard Emma’s story while giving a cookery demonstration at Rigaletto’s restaurant at the DW Stadium.
The vouchers will entitle the highest bidders to a special, VIP day at his academy in Hertfordshire.
Based at Crouchmoor farm, it is surrounded by rolling green countryside and acres of farmland. The garden at the academy provides the kitchen with seasonally fresh fruit and vegetables, all the year round.
The kitchen itself is equipped with all modern appliances and has been recently refurbished, although it still retains its British farmhouse kitchen charm. The usual cost for two people is £1,000, but Novelli will put the day on free of charge.
The successful bidders will spend the day with the chef and be taught how to cook up some wonderful dishes by the man himself.
Jean-Christophe also spoke with Wigan Leisure Culture Trust about helping out the Wigan Youth Zone too at some point.
He said: “I wouldn’t have wanted to leave Wigan without doing something for a local charity and I am amazed at the what both charities have achieved in Wigan.
“We need to raise as much money as we can for both, so dig deep.”
A spokesperson for the Emma Hoolin appeal said they were delighted by such a generous donation. The vouchers will be auctioned off as a pair via ebay at http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=280843219464 They will be sold as a pair as opposed to individually.
For more information on Jean-Christophe’s academy, visit www.jeanchristophenovelli.com.
Meanwhile four members of the Wigan Athletic staff completed their gruelling cycle to Norwich City at the weekend in aid of the Emma appeal.
Former players Neill Rimmer and Matt Jackson were joined by Centre of Excellence employees Kenny Williams and Gary Sloane in the long journey ahead of Sunday’s 1-1 draw with the Canaries.
The group set off last Wednesday and arrived at their location on Saturday after having travelled more than 60 miles per day. Neill said: “It’s nice to be home!
“We had a great time though. The primary reason behind the ride was to raise money for Emma and it’s great to hear she is doing so well and could be ready to come home soon.
“She is an amazing little girl and we drew strength from her. The ride itself was fantastic.
“We have become such close friends as a result and it’s certainly something we will still talk about in 30 years time!
“We had a lot of laughs, particularly when Matt got a flat tyre and fell off... again.”
The group have asked that any donations be placed via the official Emma Hoolin Justgiving page www.justgiving.com/hope4emma.
Excitement was growing both at home and in America this week as hopes were further raised that Emma could be home in Wigan within the next few days.
It depends on what doctors say about her progress but family friends say that the signs are currently encouraging.
One of them, Linn Robinson, said: “Emma is doing really well. She can not wait to return home and is very eager to start school.
“The whole family is very excited about returning home. After what has been an incredibly difficult year, the Hoolins are looking forward to returning to a more normal life amongst family and friends.”