Three brave children whose parents died of cancer just days apart have thanked the public for helping them to stay in their family home.
Luke, 21, Hannah, 18, and Oliver Bennet, 13, were orphaned last month when their beloved mum, Julie, 50, passed away in hospital.
Only five days earlier, their dad, Mike, 57, had succumbed to a brain tumour, surrounded by his kids and terminally ill wife.
A picture of Julie and Mike holding hands in a final goodbye broke hearts across the world after their offspring shared it.
Donations flooded in for Luke, Hannah and Oliver after a family friend set up an online appeal to raise funds for the trio’s future.
The grief-stricken children feared they would lose their family home in Wirral, Merseyside, after their parents’ tragic deaths.
But thanks to the more than £275,000 raised by kind-hearted members of the public, they have been able to remain in their house.
There is also enough money to cover the course fees of Luke and Hannah, who faced withdrawal from their full-time studies.
Now, the kids have expressed their gratitude, saying they are “so grateful” for the generosity they have received from across the globe.
“Initially it was people we knew directly and then it was people from all around the world just being so generous,” Luke told The Times.
“It is absolutely amazing. We are so grateful.”
He said he and his siblings now have “enough financial security” that they would like to put a portion of the money “towards other charitable things”.
“There’s other people that need it more than us,” Hannah added.
“There was something I read on the JustGiving page about somebody needing treatment and that was about them keeping their life and not about being able to stay in the same house.”
Following Mike and Julie’s deaths, on February 6 and 11, Luke was granted guardianship of Oliver along with a family friend.
He told the newspaper he has “a deal on bedtime” with his younger brother, which sees him “generally” go to bed at 10pm.
Before they passed away, the children’s parents wanted nothing more than to ensure their offspring would be able to remain in the family home.
They also wanted their kids to be able to continue their education.
Friends promised to support Luke, Hannah and Oliver, but the online appeal set up to raise funds for their future was quickly inundated.
Donations poured in from strangers across the globe – including £2.56 from a homeless man who gave ‘every penny he raised’.
This week, the page closed with a total of £276,820 raised – enough to cover the family’s mortgage payments and education costs.
Last month, family friend, Heather Heaton Gallagher, a spokesperson for the children, said: “Words cannot express our desperate sadness for such a beautiful family.
“The Bennets are known to all for their generosity, their love for life, and their down to earth approach.
“Julie has kept the children in a normal routine whilst dealing with Mike’s illness over the past few years.
“When Julie became ill, she made it her purpose to create as many memories as a family for the children to hold onto.”
She added: “Facing a double terminal cancer diagnosis is beyond belief and, as a community, we are working hard to support the family so that they can stay together and ensure that they can continue their education as planned.”
Mike had been fighting a battle with cancer since 2013 and had been nursed at home by Julie and the children.
He was a self-employed cabinet maker who had served his apprenticeship with Baldock’s Furniture Makers in Liverpool.
Julie, a primary school teacher at Somerville School, Wallasey, was diagnosed with cancer in May last year.
She had liver and kidney cancer which spread to other parts of her body.
In the heartbreaking image shared by the children, Julie clings to her dying husband Mike’s hand, as she says goodbye to him.
The picture was taken at St John’s Hospital.
Heather previously said: “The kids are so overwhelmed by the love and support that has been demonstrated, and they want to share their heartfelt thanks to everyone who has made this possible.
“It has meant that their lovely mum could go peacefully to join their dad Mike, who passed earlier this week.
“Julie was such an incredible woman. When faced with a devastating diagnosis, she never gave up, she was always focused on taking care of other people, I recall a rare moment of sadness she shared with me, saying: ‘My children don’t deserve this’ and that was Julie, no matter how upset she was personally her focus was on her kids.”