This article contains graphic images.
A Stockport lad’s harrowing barbecue accident which left him temporarily unable to walk and in need of a skin graft has been the catalyst for the launch of an inspiring fundraising campaign.
During a family day out at Formby Beach last June, 9-year-old Will Tyler accidentally stepped on hot sand where a beach barbecue had previously been sat, causing severe scarring to both his feet and leaving him needing urgent medical treatment.
The Tyler family left their home in The Heatons on 1 June 2020, and headed to the popular Merseyside beach to join friends.
Having purposefully hiked across the sand dunes at Formby to keep away from the crowds, they set up a disposable barbecue to enjoy some sausage sandwiches, and then once the barbecue had cooled, moved it far away from the children to one side, so the youngsters could run around and play.
“Everyone I’ve told this story to just cannot believe how sand can stay that hot,” explained Will’s dad Toby, aged 51.
“We’d used one of those disposable barbecues where the coals are in a foil tray.
“The bottom of the tray was on the sand – which I now know meant the heat was being sent down into the sand and the foil surface was trapping it there – [and] when we moved the barbecue, the top of the sand cooled in the atmosphere, but underneath it was still roasting hot as the heat had just been trapped there.
“We learned later it can stay dangerously hot for hours and hours.”
He continued: “The kids were running around playing when suddenly Will just screamed [and] as a parent, it’s the worst sound I’d ever heard and it’s a sound I’ll never forget. He pulled his foot out of the sand and his skin was peeling off his foot like melted wax. We realised the sand was scalding hot and we were miles from anywhere with no first aid kit or anyone to help us.
“I ran carrying him to the car [and] by the time I got there, I was soaking wet with sweat. I wasn’t sure I was going to make it, but seeing Will’s foot… I guess the adrenaline just kicked in.”
Will’s mum Claire drove to a nearby hospital about 30 minutes away from the beach, before he was taken to Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital to spend eight nights.
“He had to have a skin graft from his right thigh to his left foot,” said Toby. “He was on morphine for the pain but I know there were some days, especially when they had to change his dressings, that were particularly bad for him”.
From there, it’s been a slow recovery process – and one that is still ongoing.
Toby continued: “As he’s still growing, we’re not sure if there will be operations in future, but for now, he is recovering well and he’s lucky that he has some close friends that have been really great at supporting him – and of course we have to thank the team at the hospital’s Burns and Plastics Aftercare Clinic.
There’s no denying that the tragic events of that day are forever etched in the memory of the Tyler family, but thanks to the expert care it’s one that’s inspired young Will to raise as much money as possible for the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital.
Yesterday, on the one-year anniversary of his accident, Will began eight fundraising challenges – which vary from an 8km walk and an 8km paddle in the Mersey River, to eight random acts of kindness, eight nights sleeping out, and even getting eight friends to shave their heads in eight minutes – and revisited Formby Beach to raise awareness of the dangers of barbecues on sand.
All the money he raises will go to Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital Charity and will help other young burns patients just like Will.
“I wanted to do some fundraising themed around the number eight because that’s how many nights I was in the children’s hospital,” Will explained.
“We originally wanted to raise £888 but even before the challenges were nailed down, we’d already smashed that target, so now we’re having a rethink of how much we would like to raise.
“As well as raising the money, I really want to raise awareness of how dangerous it is having a barbecue on the sand.
“We didn’t know how hot the sand would get, or that it would stay hot for such a long time.”
Jo Thomas – who is the Community Fundraising Officer at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital Charity, and has been supporting the family with their fundraising – added: “Will is such an inspiring young man and his enthusiasm for his fundraising is incredible.
“He really has thrown all his energy into preparing for his challenges and everyone at the Charity can’t wait to hear how they all go.
“I’m particularly looking forward to the head shave pictures.
“We want to thank Will and all his family and friends for not only fundraising a fantastic amount of money, but also raising awareness of such an important issue.”
Keen to sponsor Will?
You can find more information about Will’s mission via his Facebook page ‘8 Days in June’ here, and you can also contribute to helping him reach his fundraising target by making a donation to his GoFundMe page.
Featured Image – Tyler Family / RMCHC