TODAY the Yorkshire Post announces a unique partnership aiming to enable the families of seriously ill children make the most of their precious time together.
The newspaper, and its sister titles across the region, are to raise money for the three Yorkshire children’s hospices for the next 12 months.
For the first time, Martin House in Boston Spa, Bluebell Wood in Sheffield and Forget-Me-Not in Huddersfield are teaming up to jointly benefit.
We need the help of readers to reach our £30,000 target so the hospices can continue their excellent work supporting the families of nearly 1,000 children and young people with life-shortening conditions.
Every year the hospices need to raise £13.3m in total because only 10 per cent of their funding comes from the Government.
Our appeal could make a huge difference by providing nursing care, a vital break or support at home for families in the most difficult situations.
The Yorkshire Children’s Hospices Appeal, supported by Johnston Press publications in the region, aims to help bring some light and laughter to the lives of these families.
James Mitchinson, editor of The Yorkshire Post, said: “These three children’s hospices do incredible work.
“They are there every step of the way for families living through the toughest of times, not only at the end of life but throughout the journey.
“Having heard about the amazing services they offer and the difference their support makes, we were keen to give our backing and we hope our readers will help to make the appeal a huge success.”
Angela Monaghan, chief executive at Martin House Children’s Hospice, said they were all delighted to be involved.
“This is a very exciting time for the three children’s hospices across the county and we are pleased to be part of the Yorkshire Children’s Hospices’ Appeal.
“Thanks so much for your backing – money raised will enable us to continue our care and support 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“The family is always placed at the forefront of everything that we do and our support can be a lifeline for families facing challenges that they never imagined they would have to face.”
Every single pound raised through the appeal will make a big difference – and to start the appeal, we’re asking readers to show they care by holding a Valentine’s Day cake sale. Simply holding a coffee morning could raise enough to send a family on a day trip, give a child a hydrotherapy session or even allow a member of a hospice’s community team to pay a much-needed home visit.
Claire Rintoul, chief executive of Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice, said: “Across Yorkshire, our three children’s hospices make a really positive difference to the lives of hundreds of families facing incredibly tough times.
“The children and young adults we collectively support are so amazing and we are focused completely on helping them to create special, lasting memories.
“This partnership approach with Johnston Press will give our fantastic families, volunteers, supporters and staff teams a chance to have their voice heard.”
“We’re looking forward to an exciting year ahead with Johnston Press – thanks so much for your support, it will help us to continue our work providing support both in our hospice buildings and in family homes.”
Peter Branson, chief executive of Forget Me Not Children’s Hospice, added that they were delighted to be chosen to benefit: “The work that we do to support children with life-shortening conditions and their families is vital but only possible because of the amazing support we receive from local people, businesses and communities.
“There are more than 3,700 children living with life-shortening conditions across Yorkshire, and with less than 10 per cent of the funding that we need coming from government sources, the need for people to get behind this appeal is more pressing than ever.
“I am really looking forward to looking back a year from now and celebrating what we have managed to achieve together.”
• Donate to the appeal online. Or, send a cheque, made payable to Yorkshire Children’s Hospices’ Appeal, to: Kayla Lindsey, Yorkshire Post, No 1 Leeds, 26 Whitehall Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS12 1BE. You can also download our donations pack, containing all you need to know to help the appeal.
• Are you supporting the appeal? Tell us about it via social media using #ychappeal or email email@example.com.
CASE STUDY: HOLLY WALKER
The Walker family are looking forward to a weekend away - at Martin House Children’s Hospice.
For they say visiting the hospice in Boston Spa is a lifeline for them.
Holly Walker, now 18, was diagnosed with Retts syndrome at the age of two.
The rare neurological disorder affects the development of the brain, so Holly is unable to walk or talk and is dependent on her parents or carers for every activity.
Her family had lived with her diagnosis for over 10 years before they discovered Martin House.
Julie, a midwife, was on a professional study day about death in childhood when she suddenly realised the children being discussed were similar to her daughter.
“I thought ‘does this mean my Holly is going to die?’, she said.
“I was beside myself and I had to leave the day.”
It was a devastating realisation, but the it led the Walker family to Martin House.
“It was definitely a life changing point for us,” said Julie, from Badsworth near Pontefract.
“We had struggled with caring for Holly with no respite and without a full night’s sleep.”
Since finding the hospice, Julie says it has made a huge difference to her, husband Lee and their other children Elliot, 12, and 10-year-old twins Isobel and Phoebe.
“Our experience as a family going to Martin House has been extraordinary. We have met lifelong friends, who like us have found themselves caring for our beautiful children who have lifelong battles with ill-health.
“It’s a real home-from-home, with no sadness - it’s a really happy place.”
Holly’s brother and sisters go to the sibling group, meeting other youngsters like them, taking part in activities and receiving valuable support.
“When Holly does die, I know that they are a safety net for my other children,” Julie, 44, said.
“They will help all of us with our grief.”
During Holly’s visits, she is pampered with treats like manicures, pedicures and sessions in the spa pool.
The family has also taken part in an “amazing” project through the hospice with Northern Ballet which involved music, movement, ballet and photography.
They’re keen fundraisers and Julie’s latest challenge has been to go on a liquid diet for January, in solidarity with Holly who is fed by tube.
The whole family look forward to weekend stays at the hospice, where Julie and Lee can have a break from their caring responsibilities.
“It’s being able to sleep, to relax and to do things with our other children that we wouldn’t normally do,” Julie said.
“It’s just an amazing place.”
CASE STUDY: LUCY THOMPSON
Every morning, 11-year-old Lucy Thompson greets her mum with a smile.
It’s a normal occurrence for most parents, but is extra special for Dawn Thompson as she knows what a huge effort it takes.
Lucy has quadriplegic cerebral palsy, which has left her dependent on a wheelchair, as well as epilepsy, visual impairment and global developmental delay.
Despite her health issues, Dawn says Lucy has brought joy to many people’s lives.
“It takes great strength for Lucy to smile and every morning I go to wake her up she gives me one of her love filled smiles,” said the 46-year-old.
“It means the world to me to see her smile and it is moments like this which are so precious to me and which I will cherish forever.”
Lucy was starved of oxygen during her delivery and wasn’t breathing when she was born. She was immediately rushed to intensive care and her mum endured the next three hours not knowing if she had survived.
Dawn, from Thornhill, Dewsbury, asked the nurse whether she would be able to take her baby home, to which she replied: “you will take her home and you will love her no matter what”.
“I was just so relieved. I think I already had a feeling that our lives were going to be very different but the only thing that was important then and still is now, was that my little girl was alive.”
Lucy’s mum is her full-time carer, but she says her daughter is her “inspiration”.
“She has taught me so much about life and I am so proud to be her Mum,” said Dawn, 46.
“She has brought joy and understanding into so many people’s lives, much more than I alone could ever achieve in my entire lifetime.”
The family, including Lucy’s 18-year-old brother Josh, say Forget Me Not Children’s Hospice in Huddersfield has helped them in many ways.
The hospice’s community team visit their home to allow Dawn to have a break from caring so she can get on with household tasks, see family and friends or just recharge her batteries.
Hospice staff have got to know Lucy very well, giving her mum the confidence to take some much-needed time off.
As a break from the daily routine, the family can spend time together at Forget Me Not.
“The overnight stays at Forget Me Not are our light at the end of the tunnel,” Dawn said.
“When we turn into the driveway I subconsciously and spontaneously breath out a sigh of relief.
“It feels like coming home, a haven, a safe place - a place where we can leave our nursing and young carer responsi bilities behind, where we can just be a family again.
“I do not know what the future holds but I do know that every moment with Lucy is special.
“With the help of Forget Me Not, we are able to make new and wonderful memories with every precious day that we have.”