We’ve been really looking forward to celebrating Christmas this year with our families at the hospice and at home, particularly as we weren’t able to celebrate in person last year. The last two years have been tough for most of us, but particularly for the families who come to Helen & Douglas House, many of whom have had to isolate themselves to protect their children.
As a result, many families have not had help from friends or family and so have needed our support more than ever. We continued to stay open during the pandemic, providing emergency symptom management and end of life care at the hospice, and we increased our support to families at home. So, this Christmas, it was great to be able to enjoy some festive celebrations – watch the highlights here:
It was so lovely to have some exciting festive celebrations take place this December and to help make the end of this year extra special for the families we care for, don’t miss more from the other activities we enjoyed!
Clarence House visit for our families
For the past 11 years a selection of our families have been invited to Clarence House by the former Duchess of Cornwall, to help decorate her Christmas tree. Last year this had to be done virtually via a Zoom call but, thankfully, we were able to take four families up to Clarence House again this year on 15th December. This is such a special treat for our families as, although their children’s lives may be short, we help to fill them with wonderful memories like this that they can treasure for many years to come.
Everyone enjoyed their special visit to Clarence House
The children who visited Clarence House were Neve Tammam, aged 9 and Ella Greenough, aged 5, from Oxford, Max Walder from Chesham, aged 8, Nathan Best from Banbury, aged 10 and Fatima, age 9. They were each joined by their parents as well as Clare Periton, our Chief Executive, and other members of hospice staff. The former Duchess welcomed the children and their families individually and then led them through to the library where there was a beautiful Christmas tree and table full of decorations so the children could take it in turns to decorate the tree.
Jenny, mum to Nathan who sung ‘We Wish you a merry Christmas’ to the former Duchess, said ‘We have a tough year ahead of us regarding Nathan’s health, Helen & Douglas House has helped us every step of the way with support and kindness. Today was Amazing, yet again giving us another wonderful memory to hold on to in dark times.’ And Nathan told us, ‘I got to sing again and everyone clapped. It was the best day ever.’
Later, as they went into the dining room there was a fantastic spread of chocolate Santa’s, candy canes, chocolate coins, gingerbread men and fruit. Whilst the children were seated at the table the former Duchess personally served the children with a plate of delicious, steaming sausage and mash, over which she poured gravy. After lunch, Her Royal Highness gave the children some festive party bags and as an extra surprise, Mr Tumble gave the children a Christmas message via a video link. As the families left Clarence House they were treated to a wonderful performance of ‘We wish you a merry Christmas’ by the Band of the Welsh Guards.
Christmas parties at the hospice
We had four separate Christmas parties this year which took place over the first weekend of December. We held them separately so that we could be COVID safe and easily social distance and to make sure that as many children as possible would get the chance to enjoy our Christmas celebrations. We normally only have one party, but this year our parties were even more important to our families given we weren’t able to have one last year.
Christmas party celebrations at the hospice
Santa visited with his elves and give the children presents made up of puzzles and games from his magical grotto. We also had some furry animal guests and party games, Christmas crafts and, of course, yummy Christmas food to enjoy. For those families who couldn’t join us, they received a wonderful festive goody bag full of delicious foods and crafts which were donated to the charity. Throughout December we have also been doing Christmas crafts and having Christmas sing-a-longs with the children staying with us for respite care.
Clare, Josh’s mum said this about our Christmas celebrations ‘We all totally loved the Christmas party at the hospice and the boys had a blast. It was so well thought out and planned and welcoming. It felt very special and safe. You’re so kind and generous. We’ve really missed Helen & Douglas House!’
And, don’t miss the adventures of Pickle – the Elf on a Shelf!
Say hello to Pickle, our festive recruit! He’s been with us for the whole of December and he’s been very busy over the weeks getting to know the Helen & Douglas team and our families! He started off by getting to know the care team and the hospice (and finding a comfy spot in the Christmas tree!) and then spent the rest of the week getting stuck into baking with the children and having lots of fun at Christmas celebrations both with our teams and at the hospice with our children and families – he even got to have a catch up with Santa himself!
It’s been a very busy festive season for Pickle but he’s really looking forward to a rest after Christmas when the hard work is all done.
Pickle is getting up to no good at the hospice
Supporting families and Christmas and beyond…
Christmas is a very special time for our families as they never know if this might be their child’s last Christmas. Also, for the families we support whose child has died, Christmas can be very tough remembering previous years when their children enjoyed the festivities. However, our bereavement support workers are there to help these families through this difficult time whenever they need us. Many people think hospices are sad places and there are sad times but for a lot of the time, there is happiness and joy particularly at Christmas. We help these children live their short lives to the full helping their parents create wonderful memories they can treasure forever.
Donate to the hospice this Christmas and you’ll be making a huge difference to the families we care for. Did you know that a gift of £35 could help cover the cost of medical supplies for a child staying with us overnight for a supportive stay or end-of-life care?