“It is hard to explain but when you are with Mary and Graham you feel privileged to be within their circle”

Our family’s motivation, support, and involvement with the Rosie May Foundation

By Alice Burchfield

Having first met Mary and Graham at Musical Theatre High’s Charity Performances a few years ago, it was easy to see what exceptional individuals they were. From the moment they started telling their story to students, friends, and family at the Recreation Rooms in Leighton Buzzard, I felt compelled to support the legacy for their daughter Rosie May. Their daughter’s death resonates with so many, whether it be the hurt and grief they experienced or the passion that their 10- year- old daughter had for the performing arts, it touched everyone. 5 minutes later, I knew this was going to be a story I would never forget. Without their visit to Musical Theatre High! I would never have been able to hear from the founders themselves and the incredible opportunity they have created from every parent’s worst nightmare.

Senior Dance performed Spirit from Disney’s the Lion King in December 2019
Musical Theatre High! is a singing, dancing, and acting academy run by Richard Reynard, an ex-west end performer. Every Winter Term, we hold an in house charity performance for family and friends to raise
money. The academy is affiliated with the Rosie May Foundation and every year Mary, Graham, and Sam try to come and visit to interact with the students and see what we have all been working on. We have performed shows such as Thoroughly Modern Millie, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Scrooge, Moulin Rouge, Viva Forever, and Little Shop of Horrors. In 2018 we raised £2,057.54 and in 2019 we raised £2,214.46. Last year I performed in Moulin Rouge and The Lion King, both of which Mary was able to come and watch.Mary and Graham fund a one-year scholarship to a student at the academy, giving them the opportunity to further their training for free. Last year’s winner Millie Barber was “completely taken by surprise” when directorRichard Reynard, presented her with the award for her “hard work, positive attitude, and progression with her performance capabilities”. With her “huge passion for the arts”, Millie has similar interests and aspirations to the founder’s daughter, making her the perfect winner of the award. The talented dancer has been “inspired by their work.” and also said, “It’s amazing how they help and support so many different people from different backgrounds to give them the best life that they can.” She also commented on how Mary and Graham have created an “incredible foundation” and that they were “two of the loveliest people” she had met. From a personal perspective, Musical Theatre High has helped me gain confidence, improve my skill set, make new friends, as well as providing me with an uplifting, safe environment where I can be surrounded by others who share the same passion for musical theatre as myself.During Lockdown, I was also lucky enough to win a place on a Journalism and Creative Writing work experience course with the Young Journalists Academy. Our main task for the week was to create a feature piece. For mine, I chose to write about how Mary and Graham have been able to take every parents worst nightmare and turn it into a successful charity, which has changed thousands of lives, both here in the UK and abroad in Sri Lanka and Nepal. As well as this we had workshops, through live Google Meets with industry professionals such as Mark Hudson, Creative Director Video, News UK, Kyle Farrell, news sub-editor and copy-taster, The Sun, Shingi Mararike, news reporter, The Sunday Times and Eleanor Stammeijer, Publicity Assistant, DK. All these workshops provided me with incredible advice and tips for getting into the industry and on improving my writing. I loved working with the foundation throughout the week and wanted to continue to do my bit to contribute to such an incredible cause. Mary and Sam were both extremely supportive and offered me the opportunity to manage the Rosie-May blog! I am looking forward to keeping you up to date with all the latest, events, fundraisers and volunteers over the coming months!Another way in which my family has been involved with the Rosie May Foundation is when my Dad, Richard Burchfield, ran the Oxford Half Marathon in 2019 and raised £330 for the foundation. Having first heard about the charity at the annual charity performances, he commented on the couples “generosity to provide the sponsorship to a child” and “as both of my daughters, Alice and Katie, benefit from MTH! I felt that Iwould like to assist in any small way that I could. The story of Rosie May is one that pulls on the heartstrings, especially as a parent, but remembering the tragedy that Mary and Graham went through, plus the positives that they have taken from this helped me immensely during mornings of training”. When discussing this with him, he said his main motivation was “primarily, Mary and Graham. Having met them, seeing their generosity, drive and ongoing creativity to make a difference be in it Sri Lanka or in the UK during the COVID pandemic is something that endears you to them.” My Dad said that the story of Rosie May “gets you every time so being able to associate with the charity in some way is a no brainer in my mind”. There are loads of ways you can get involved too, look out for an upcoming post for more details.

Technique Performing Moulin Rouge in December


As our conversation progressed, he went on to speak about the support that the foundation offered for him, saying the founders were “role models, heroes and inspiring”, “It is hard to explain but when you are with Mary and Graham you feel privileged to be within their circle. The strength they must have is extraordinary… How they have channelled this for the better good is beyond belief with results visible to all. If people ask me who inspires me, then Mary and Graham are top of my list!”. Regarding support during his training process, he said that “showing an interest in how I was doing, prior to and after was extremely heart-warming”. He felt like he was “part of the extended Rosie May Foundation family and so appreciated what I was doing for them.” Richard finished by saying that they were “An amazing couple who quite simply make a difference! Not many people really do this.”

From running half marathons to performing in showcases my family and I are excited to continue to work with the foundation in any way we can. I wrote an article about the foundation’s establishment and the tragedy that the couple experienced, which will be posted onto the blog section of rosie-may.com soon and am excited to continue writing regular posts for them, updating everyone on their newest projects and fundraisers.

In the future, I intend to explore the opportunities for me and my family to possibly visit one of the projects in Sri Lanka or Nepal, but more on that hopefully in the months to come…