Stars walk the red carpet at launch night of Jordan's Retreat charity
15th November 2023

Stars shine for Jordan: Celebrities help brave mother fulfil her pledge to dying son, 19, as they walk the red carpet at launch night of Jordan’s Retreat charity that will help families face the heartbreak of losing a child

  • Virna Midgley set up the charity after her son Jordan died from cancer in 2016

A mother’s promise to her dying teenage son to help other families facing the heart-breaking prospect of losing a child moved a step closer to being fulfilled at a red carpet event tonight.

Stars of the worlds of screen and stage turned out to support the charity set up by Virna Midgley, whose youngest son Jordan died aged 19 in 2016 a year after being diagnosed with synovial sarcoma, a cancer of the soft tissue.

Loose Women’s Debbie McGee and actress Vicki Michelle, known for roles in ‘Allo ‘Allo and Emmerdale, were among those at the charity’s launch night in London tonight, along with actor Patrick Robinson, who played Martin ‘Ash’ Ashford in Casualty, and Jane Gurnett, who has been in Casualty, Doctors and Emmerdale.

Also there showing their support were actor, writer and director Tony McHale, who co-created Holby City; actress Debbie Arnold, who has portrayed regular characters in EastEnders, Coronation Street, Emmerdale, Hollyoaks and Doctors; and Dee Anderson, whose mother Sylvia and stepfather Gerry Anderson created Thunderbirds.

Virna Midgley with her youngest son Jordan, who died aged 19 in 2016 a year after being diagnosed with synovial sarcoma, a cancer of the soft tissue

Jordan’s Retreat founder Virna Midgley (right) with CEO Gillian Robson (left) and Debbie McGee at the launch tonight

Actress Vicki Michelle at the launch of Jordan’s Retreat at the Americana restaurant in Haymarket

The charity, named Jordan’s Retreat, was set up to provide a haven for families where they can spend precious time together away from hospital or hospice care. An idyllic site with five self-catering cottages has been identified in the Yorkshire Dales and now the race is on to raise the £1.7 million to buy it.

Jordan, a lifelong lover of animals and the outdoors, was too frail to leave his bed after the cancer took hold – but told his mother he dreamed of feeling the country air on his face.

Mrs Midgley, 57, a make-up artist from York, said: ‘It was something we never managed to do in that dreadful year.

‘I was determined to create Jordan’s Retreat for his legacy, the legacy of the amazing children I met and also lost along the way, and for the mums and dads I walked this awful path with.

‘It is in helping heal others I find I can heal myself.’

Ahead of tonight’s event at the Americana restaurant in Piccadilly, actor Martin Freeman, whose roles have extended from The Office to The Hobbit and beyond, showed his support for the charity in a message, saying: ‘Families coming to Jordan’s Retreat are suffering their worst nightmare. 

Actors Patrick Robinson and Jane Gurnett at the launch of Jordan’s Retreat in Haymarket

Dee Anderson, of Thunderbirds fame, and actress Debbie Arnold at the charity launch

Loose Women ‘s Debbie McGee and Holby City creator Tony Michale graced the red carpet for the launch

‘To have a place to recharge, contemplate and ‘just be’ will help people going through the toughest of times. I wish it all the luck in the world.’

Another supporter of the charity actress Caroline Quentin, known for her numerous TV roles including in Mean Behaving Badly and Jonathan Creek said: ‘My heart is with everybody involved in this extraordinary endeavour.’

Each of the cottages is fully-accessible and will have its own alpacas and pygmy goats, as well as free-range chickens from which families can collect fresh eggs every morning.

At the heart of the retreat will be a state-of-the-art wellness centre, offering hands-on therapies, yoga, meditation, massage, Reiki and reflexology, as well as counselling and beauty sessions, and a pool and sauna.

Mrs Midgley’s with Jordan and her other sons, Max, now 31, and Oliver, now 33, in 2015

Jordan and his brothers Max (left) and Oliver (top) at home with their greyhound Willow in 2015

Collect picture shows Jordan, aged 4. His mother promised him to help other families facing the heart-breaking prospect of losing a child after he was diagnosed with cancer in his teens

Guests will also find the ‘Garden of Love’, a petting zoo area for younger children, where the retreat’s three Rs – rest, recharge and reconnect – will be put into action.

For those who have lost a loved one, there will be bereavement support, as well as tailored programmes for men – such as dry stone-walling, animal husbandry and military survival skills – who may find it harder to share their experiences.

Every week, there will be a planned schedule of events and activities for children, young people and their families, providing a much-needed escape from the stresses of everyday life, demanding schedules of hospital appointments and draining hospice care – the need for which Mrs Midgley, a mother-of-three, understands only too well.

Collect picture shows Jordan enjoying a Ferrari driving experience for his 16 birthday – before his tragic diagnosis

The retreat has been set up in Jordan’s memory after his tragic loss aged 19. Pictured aged 4

With an estimated 86,265 children under the age of 19 in England living with life-limited conditions, there is a desperate need for places like Jordan’s Retreat. 

Mrs Midgley and her husband Simon Midgley, 53, a former Royal Marine, will manage the centre themselves, working with experienced staff.

Jordan and Mrs Midgley’s other sons, Oliver, 33, and Max, 31, are from a previous marriage.

The charity’s chief executive is businesswoman and philanthropist Gillian Robson, a Dragon’s Den success story with her own skincare business ‘TANCREAM’ that she launched following her own diagnosis with skin cancer.

The charity’s patron is the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday’s Sarah Vine, who attended tonight’s launch with fellow Mail columnist Andrew Pierce.

Stephen Less, who owns Americana restaurant, donated the food and venue for the launch evening. 

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