Thousands raised for Nottinghamshire school after cancer death

  • Published
Maria ThornalleyImage source, Thornalley family
Image caption,
Maria Thornalley was first diagnosed with cervical cancer on 4 April 2018

A community has helped to raise thousands of pounds for a special needs school in honour of a woman who died from cervical cancer.

Maria Thornalley, 55, from Willoughby on the Wolds, Nottinghamshire, died last month.

She had worked as a teaching assistant in Cotgrave for 13 years and had an "immeasurable" love for the pupils.

Her son, who set up an online fundraiser in his mother's memory, said it has had an "overwhelming" response.

Ms Thornalley was diagnosed with stage 2B cervical cancer on 4 April 2018 after experiencing extreme pain in her lower abdomen.

She was told her cancer was an aggressive strain and that it had progressed beyond the possibility of a hysterectomy.

Instead, she underwent chemotherapy and radiotherapy until New Year's Eve when an MRI scan revealed she was officially "cancer free".

Image source, Thornalley family
Image caption,
Local residents lined the street as her funeral procession passed through the village last week

Five months later Ms Thornalley began experiencing pain again and in October 2019 she was told the cancer had returned and would be treated as palliative.

Her son Joshua Thornalley, 24, said: "It's hard to comprehend how something so unimaginably cruel could happen to someone like my mum.

"Her love for the kids and all the staff at Ash Lea School was immeasurable and she loved all of her family and friends so deeply."

Ms Thornalley had worked at the school since 2007 and wanted to continue helping after her death.

"She wanted all the proceeds raised from the funeral to go to the kids and staff at Ash Lea School.

"The funds raised would help towards developing new areas in the outdoor space for the kids to learn, play and enjoy and also help to maintain the facilities in the future," said Mr Thornalley.


In addition to the funeral funds, the family set up an online fundraiser to receive donations for the school.

Mr Thornalley said: "We managed to smash the initial £1,000 target in less than an hour of creating the page.

"I've increased the fund target five times now already and we've now exceeded well over £5,000 which is just incredible.

"The response has been overwhelming actually".

Kate Davies, head teacher at Ash Lea School, said the money raised will allow them to carry out the work without making compromises.

She said: "We can get an outdoor area for those children that will be ideal rather than ok."

Follow BBC East Midlands on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Send your story ideas to

Related Internet Links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.