AN Oakdale schoolboy who lost his dad to a brain tumour when he was just nine years old will go backstage with the likes of Lady Gaga, Gary Barlow and JLS tonight at the Children in Need Rocks Manchester concert.

Eleven-year-old Ronan Vowles lost his dad in May last year after a three year battle against a malignant brain tumour. Ken Vowles, 44,was diagnosed in July 2007 after complaining of problems with his vision. Despite two operations and numerous rounds of intense chemo and radiotherapy, he died at St Anne’s Hospice on May 28, 2010, leaving his wife Mandie, 45, and sons Ethan, 19, and Ronan devastated.

But mum Mandie says the family could not have coped with the loss of Ken had it not been for St David’s Foundation Hospice Care’s Unicorn Project, which is partly funded by Children In Need. Launched in September 2009, the Unicorn Project works with children who have an adult in their lives with a life-threatening illness, or someone who has died suddenly.

A support worker works with the child through talking and play, helping them to cope with the changes happening around them and support them in their grief.

Support worker Elaine Robinson began working with the Vowles family, and in particular Ronan, late in 2008 as Ken became increasingly ill and Mandie found it more difficult to answer all her son’s questions.

She used things such as memory jars and timelines to help O a k d a l e Comprehensive pupil Ronan talk through the emotions he was feeling before and after his dad’s death. Ronan said: “It was a way of letting my emotions out and I could tell Elaine anything. It was really helpful.”

Elaine has finished her work with Ronan, but Mandie said without her support the family would not have got through such a difficult time. Mandie added: “Yes, life is still incredibly hard without his daddy, but I’m sure it would have been a lot harder if Elaine had not come into our lives.”

The family’s story with the Unicorn Project has now been made into a short film, which will be shown at the Children in Need Rocks Manchester concert tonight.

During filming the family met concert organiser and Take That star Gary Barlow – something that was particularly poignant as the last concert they went to with Ken was Take That’s Circus Tour in Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium. Mandie, Ronan, Ethan and Elaine will travel to the concert today and have been invited backstage to meet performers including Lady Gaga, Coldplay, and Ed Sheeran.

Children in Need Rocks will be broadcast on BBC Radio 1 and BBC 1 from8pm.