Thousands vote to name ship after sick girl from Thetford

NERC image showing what the ship will look like when it is complete

NERC image showing what the ship will look like when it is complete

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A campaign to name the UK’s next polar research ship after a terminally-ill girl from Thetford has received almost 40,000 votes in an online poll.

Poppy-Mai Barnard was diagnosed with a rare and incurable childhood tumour last month, at just 16-months-old.

Sammi and Poppy-Mai Barnard with fun day organiser Hollie Bain

Sammi and Poppy-Mai Barnard with fun day organiser Hollie Bain

Her ‘progressive malignant rhabdoid tumour’ had already spread around her body and to her brain.

News of Poppy-Mai’s devastating illness has touched the lives of thousands of people worldwide, with many following her progress on ‘The journal of Poppy-Mai’ Facebook page and helping to raise funds in support of her father’s dream of providing a sanctuary for sick children.

The youngster has also provided inspiration as a possible name for the UK’s next world-class research ship, a £200 million vessel due to set sail in 2019.

RRS Poppy-Mai attracted 39,886 votes in the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)’s Name Our Ship poll, which closed on Saturday.

Fun day organisers Kimmy Baker and Samantha and Hollie Bain

Fun day organisers Kimmy Baker and Samantha and Hollie Bain

It came second out of around 7,000 suggestions, with only RRS Boaty Mcboatface receiving more support with 124,109 votes.

A spokeswoman for NERC said: “We’ve had an extremely high volume of suggestions and will now review all of the suggested names. The final decision will be announced in due course.”

So far, more than £18,000 has been raised for Poppy’s Field Sanctuary, a fund set up by Poppy-Mai’s father, Andy, who wants to ‘build a sanctuary where sick children can stay with their family in their need of respite’.

On his fund-raising page, he says: “It’s broken our hearts to see our baby Princess like this. I dread every new day as it brings us a day closer to Poppy-Mai falling asleep.”

A fun day at Thetford’s Pine Close Community Centre on Sunday is one of many fund-raisers to have taken place recently.

It raised around £600 and was organised by sisters Hollie and Samantha Bain and their friend Kimmy Baker, two of whom knew Poppy-Mai’s mother, Sammi, from a parenting group.

Samantha, 25, said: “The money’s for Poppy’s Field which is going to be a free sanctuary for parents with children with cancer because they need places to be where there aren’t too many people because their immune system’s down when they’re going through chemotherapy.”

She added that the fund-raiser went ‘amazingly well’ and was made all the more special because of a surprise visit by Poppy-Mai.

It ended with the launch of 100 balloons, something that is done at all events held in Poppy-Mai’s name.

To add to the fund, visit www.gofundme.com/poppy-mai