The year that we got our future back
While many will be celebrating as the clock counts down to midnight tonight, Katherine and Jamie Staples will be looking to the future perhaps more than most, writes Gemma Peplow.
The couple, who live in Blaby, will be seeing in the new year with their five-week-old son, Gabriel.
It's a cliche to describe little Gabriel as a miracle, but to Katherine and Jamie, that is what he is: the baby they have desperately wanted for 10 years, who has given them a new reason for being after the heartbreak and trauma of losing their first-born, Harley.
Many of you reading this will know about Harley. His story has been told on these pages many times and, with the legacy he has left behind, will undoubtedly be told for years to come.
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Harley was your normal little boy, always playing sports and mad on rock music. But everything changed in January, 2009, when his parents were given the unimaginable news that he had cancer. He died nine months later, on November 1.
By that time, Katherine and Jamie had already started fund-raising to help other poorly children.
But they had no idea then how people would take Harley to their hearts and how quickly his charity would grow.
To date, The Harley Staples Cancer Trust – which aims to set up a holiday home in Leicestershire for children with cancer and other serious illnesses – has raised £250,000.
And it was doubled to an incredible half-a-million when, in September, the charity won a national competition.
That's it, in a nutshell, although Harley's story could easily fill a much greater space than these pages allow.
So, for Katherine and Jamie, 2013 will be all about enjoying life as parents again, and finding the perfect spot to build Harley's House.
"It felt amazing when we found out I was pregnant," says Katherine. "We'd been trying for 10 years, ever since Harley was one.
"I think after so many years of trying we'd got to the point where we were wondering if it would ever happen," says Jamie.
"There was no reason why we couldn't, it was just unexplained."
As Katherine's bump developed quite quickly, it was difficult to keep secret at first, but the couple were determined to wait until they knew everything was fine before revealing the happy news.
"After what happened with Harley, if anything had gone wrong we wouldn't have been able to bear putting people through anything else," says Katherine.
"So we kept it quiet until after the first scan. Having that and hearing the baby was okay was such a relief."
But the news inevitably brought mixed emotions for the couple.
"It's hard to describe really," says Jamie.
"It was bittersweet, I suppose. It is obviously brilliant but Harley is always on our minds – how he would look now and how he would react to having a little brother.
"He always wanted a little brother or sister. He's got one now. And this little one will always have Harley looking down on him."
Just a few months after discovering Katherine was pregnant, the couple stumbled upon something that would make 2012 a momentous year for another reason.
A small piece in the Mercury's regular Your Charities page in June featured an article about house-builders Persimmon Homes, who were launching a competition to give away a £250,000 house to a worthy charity.
The Staples say it seemed like fate, and immediately submitted their entry.
From more than 3,000 applicants, Harley's charity made the final shortlist of 24 in August – and Katherine and Jamie then had 10 weeks to convince the people of Leicestershire and beyond to vote for them to win.
Starting with a Mercury front page, they then appealed to Leicester City fans by taking to the pitch at half-time during the match against Blackpool at the King Power Stadium.
Stars including rockers Kasabian, Foxes manager Nigel Pearson and cricketers Paul Nixon and Matthew Hoggard also urged people to vote.
When Katherine and Jamie travelled to London for a ceremony to announce the winner at the end of September, Jamie had a good feeling.
"We'd had a great year anyway in terms of fund-raising, people were really getting on board," he says. "And I just had a feeling about this, that we had a really good chance.
"It had been a stressful 10 weeks. It's always hard badgering people to donate money, but the good thing about this was, it was a way for people to help without having to give any money.
"It was madness when we were told we'd won.
"We were told afterwards that after the first story in the Mercury, there was a massive surge of votes for us, and no-one ever caught up. So we want to say thank you to everyone who voted."
Rather than giving the couple the house – which they then intended to sell – Persimmon simply handed them the £250,000 instead.
It means they now have £500,000 to spend on Harley's House, and they will be looking at plots in and around Market Bosworth – their first choice location – in the coming weeks.
But first, they will be enjoying spending time with Gabriel.
Katherine says his arrival on November 21 has given them "a second chance".
"It's been absolutely lovely being a mum again. I feel like a normal person again.
"This year has been a lot more positive than the last few years, that's for sure, and I suppose having Gabriel has given us a reason to be again.
"And Harley's House will grow with him. If we could get started on that by the end of the year, it would be fantastic."
Jamie added: "We can now look forward to doing things as a family with Gabriel, because we've missed out on that for the past three-and-a-bit years. He's given us a future again."