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Before He Died, Terminally Ill Dad Raised $750k for Daughter's Cancer Treatment

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Tom Attwater lost his battle with cancer on Tuesday, September 29, his wife Joely confirmed on the family’s Facebook page.

Attwater made headlines in December 2014 when he raised over three-quarters of a million dollars for his stepdaughter Kelli’s cancer treatments, and he also penned an emotional letter to his little girl about how to navigate life without him, which was first published in the Mirror.

In 2012 Attwater was diagnosed with astrocytoma, a cancerous mass in his brain, according to the Birmingham Mail. Though he knew his days were limited, he wanted to ensure the best possible future for his stepdaughter.


Kelli had a lovely time in Hunstanton this past week with mommy and daddy ????

Posted by The Kelli Smith Appeal on Friday, July 19, 2013


Kelli battled neuroblastoma when she was just three months old, and again at the age of three, reports the Birmingham Mail. When doctors predicted that Kelli was likely to relapse again, Attwater was determined to do everything he could to ensure Kelli lived a long life.

After the Mirror shared the touching letter, messages and donations poured in. As of late 2014, Attwater had already raised £500,000, which is equivalent to a little over $750,000 USD, per current exchange rates.

In an excerpt from the letter published in The Mirror, Attwater wrote:

“Darling Kelli,

I’m so sorry I will not get to see you grow up as I so want to. Please don’t blame people or the world for this. A lot of life is simply luck and mine is running out.

Most dads and daughters have decades to chat around the kitchen table, their hands warmed by mugs of coffee, as the dad dishes out advice and their girls no doubt roll their eyes. We don’t have that time. I won’t be able to drop you off on your first day at big school, pick you up after your first date, hold you when your heart hurts or cheer when you graduate.

But while your old dad is still around I thought I’d try to give you some life advice in one go. I hope it gives you some comfort. I hope cancer never returns so that your life is long, fulfilled and happy.

There is no point in asking you not to be sad when I go. I know you will be, princess. And I wish I could be there to wrap my arms around you and snuggle you until you smile again.”


Posted by Tom Attwater on Wednesday, August 13, 2014


After confirming the sad new of her husband’s passing, wife Joely Atwatter wrote on the family’s public Facebook page, “Tom was my hero and I can’t even comprehend how I am supposed to live the rest of my life without my best friend. It also saddens me to know our children will have to grow up without their father around.”

Shortly before he passed, Attwater said in a recent interview with the Mirror, “I can’t just lie in bed feeling sorry for myself when there is so much more to be done to save Kelli. My own health is not my main concern because I have no chances left and Kelli does.”

Originally published: September 30, 2015
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