‘It’s such a loss for all of us’: Bid to raise £3k to cover funeral costs of girl from Dagenham who dreamed of competing in Paralympics

PUBLISHED: 12:00 04 September 2020

Lora Milenkova. Picture: Family of Lora Milenkova

Lora Milenkova. Picture: Family of Lora Milenkova


Tributes have been paid to a 14-year-old girl who “lived life to the fullest” after her death from cancer.

Lora Milenkova died unexpectedly at home in Dagenham in August.

Irena Markova, who set up a JustGiving page to help the family meet the cost of the youngster’s funeral, said: “Lora was just amazing. She was so brave and courageous.

“She was a really happy child who never shied away from anything. She wanted to take part in everything.”

She explained how Lora was first diagnosed with cancer when she was in Year 4 at Eastbury Primary School where Irena teaches.

Doctors had to amputate Lora’s leg to save her life, but the youngster never complained in spite of being wheelchair bound before artificial limbs were fitted.

Her positive outlook saw her receive two awards from Eastbury’s headteacher.

“Bright” and “hardworking”, Lora arrived in the UK from Bulgaria and quickly picked up English.

“She never gave up. Nothing was too difficult for her. She never thought, ‘I can’t do that’. She was extremely positive,” Irena said.

But sadly, after an earlier recovery, the cancer returned without anyone’s knowledge.

“Lora never complained of anything. She just stopped breathing one day. It was a very aggressive form of cancer which went straight to her lungs,” Irena said.

“It was so unexpected. It was devastating,” she added.

All Saints Catholic School, where Lora was a pupil, is helping the family organise the funeral which is on September 10, but money is tight for the youngsters’ parents whose income has been hit by the coronavirus lockdown.

Clare Cantle, headteacher at All Saints, alongside assistant headteacher Reuben Gabrasadig are due to attend Lora’s funeral where a Year 10 guard of honour has been organised led by head of year, Frankie Williams.

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The school said in a statement: “A book of condolence and collection in memory of Lora has been arranged giving some indication of the profoundly positive impact she had on the whole school community.

“Staff and pupils were shocked and in grief to learn of Lora’s passing, especially her form group and form teacher Sarah Head.

“Alongside collective prayers and acts of faith, the Brentwood Children’s Catholic Society is on hand for all at All Saints offering counselling and well-being support.

“An outpouring of messages for her exemplifies what a positive life she led at the school, striving to succeed academically and socially with vibrancy, filling her days and that of those who lived and learnt with her.”

Plans are already afoot to record Lora’s time at All Saints as a tribute to her “infectious positivity”.

Ms Cantle said: “Lora truly lived life to the fullest. We will keep talking about her, recalling all she gave our school as we pray for her family in the time to come.”

From a “humble” background, the borough’s Bulgarian community has also rallied to support the family, as it did when raising the money to provide Lora with a wheelchair.

A keen swimmer and tennis player, Lora dreamed of competing in the Paralympics. She received two Jack Petchey awards for being a good role model in 2018 and 2019.

Hylands Community Amateur Sports Club, which recommended Lora for the second award, described her as someone who thrives at challenges and as a great role model for younger children.

Gemma Juma, operations director at the Jack Petchey Foundation, said: “Sir Jack and the Jack Petchey Foundation pass their deepest sympathy to Lora’s family and friends.

“She achieved so much in her life and is an inspiration to us all.”

Eastbury Primary headteacher, Lisa Shepherd, paid tribute to a “wonderful pupil, adding: “Lora was loved by us all and will be greatly missed by our whole community.”

Not far off the £3,000 target, Irena said it would be great to get a little further.

“It’s such a loss for all of us. I’m sure she would have achieved great things in life had she been with us longer,” she said.

To donate visit JustGiving and search for Lora Milenkova.

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