`Get well' letter idea makes family sick 11 years later

 

A chain letter launched in 1989 to realise a sick child's dream has become a nightmare for his whole family in its latest incarnation, it was revealed yesterday.

As a child, Craig Shergold began the round robin letter appealing for "get well" cards to be sent to his home in Surrey after he was diagnosed with what doctors thought was terminal cancer.

Eleven years later the letters are still arriving - he has had more than 150 million - and the family, as well as the British postal service, just want them to stop.

But a new version is being circulated in which Mr Craig Shergold's name is altered to "John Craig" and the request has become one for business compliments slips rather than get well cards.

A Royal Mail spokesman said: "We consider this to be a form of harassment.

"It is a nightmare for the Shergold family and we would call on people not to respond to chain letters.

"Names used to contact Craig [Shergold] have taken numerous forms over the years but all the cards date from an appeal 11 years ago when he wanted to win an entry in the Guinness Book of Records for having the largest collection of get well cards.

"Please, do not send any more," the spokesman said.

A number of senior politicians and showbusiness figures have responded in good faith to the latest version of the letter, adding to the problem.

Each recipient is asked to send a compliments slip to Mr Shergold's former address in Carshalton, Surrey, and 10 letters to friends asking them to do the same.

The letter says they are for a "seven-year-old with terminal cancer", but Craig Shergold is now fully recovered from his brain tumour and is in his early 20s.

He became a celebrity at the time of his original collection and amazed people with his bravery and resilience during treatment for his illness.

His mother, Marion, co-wrote a book of his story in 1993, and the family first appealed for the letters to cease more than six years ago.

"On some occasions they receive up to 10,000 letters a day," said the Royal Mail spokesman.

"We have set up special arrangements for bulk deliveries and to recycle the cards at a local paper mill."

At the chain letter's height, the Royal Mail had to reprogram its computers to deal with Mr Shergold's mountains of mail, and gave him his own sorting box - effectively making him the equivalent of a shire, or county, in his own right.