On Wednesday 8th July, Jasper, who stays at Helen & Douglas House for respite care, enjoyed a special visit at the hospice from celebrity guest, David Beckham. The visit came about after BBC Radio Oxford set up an interview for 14-year-old Jasper to talk with a famous hero of his, whilst giving him the opportunity to DJ on the Kat Orman programme on Friday 3rd July.
Jasper, who has Duchene’s Muscular Dystrophy, chose David Beckham and David Walliams to interview for the radio show. The BBC got in touch with them and they both replied saying yes to Jasper interviewing them over Zoom during Children’s Hospice Week, at the end of June. During the calls, Jasper asked both David’s some wonderful questions and also asked if they had heard of Helen & Douglas House before and if they had been there. Both David’s said they hadn’t visited, but they would like to in the future and as Jasper had mentioned that he loved playing pool here, David Beckham said he would challenge him to a game.
Afterwards, David Beckham was quick to organise a private visit to see Jasper and the staff at the hospice, so on the 8th July, when he arrived, as with everyone who comes to the hospice at the moment, David has his temperature taken and he was given hand sanitiser before he was welcomed by Clare Periton, our Chief Executive. Because of COVID-19, we weren’t able to show him around the whole of the hospice, but just the garden and play area. During the visit, social distancing also had to be maintained.
David Beckham was introduced to staff members, Ruth Bevington, Colette Smith, Becky Davis and Emma Jordan who talked about the work they do caring for local children. They also told him how COVID-19 has affected the care we are giving local families, in particular how we are giving extra support at home. He then spent the majority of his time meeting three children, who the hospice supports and cares for, and their families including 15 year old Mason and eight year old Taylor Morgan’s family, Jasper’s family and 17 year old Mason Fernley’s family.
David was very relaxed and chatted to the children and their families about how they are coping with home schooling and keeping up with their school work. He then told them about his dogs, his children and his beekeeping, as well as answering their questions, including, what was his favourite goal that he had scored. He also tried to convert Jasper from being a Chelsea fan to a Manchester United fan, to no avail. David finished with telling them about how lucky he has been to be at his home in Oxfordshire during lockdown with the whole family being able to enjoy the lovely countryside together.
Once he had met the three families, David then played a game of pool, as promised, with Jasper and then with Taylor. He also chatted to Mason and with Jasper’s younger sisters, Thalia and Genevieve, who are similar in age to his daughter Harper, and are part of the Helen & Douglas siblings club. This really made their day. The children, their families and staff then had photos taken with David and each child he met was also given a signed Inter Miami football shirt as a memento from a day that they will never forget.
Clare Periton from Helen & Douglas House said ‘It was such a special day which really lifted everyone spirits and made special memories which will be with us all forever. It has been a tough time for our families during the COVID-19 pandemic as they have been shielding and have been isolated at home. David’s visit bought much-needed joy and laughter to the children, their families and the staff at the hospice.
‘Everyone who works at Helen & Douglas House, whether they are from catering, fundraising or our care team, gives their all and has an absolute passion for this place and when you see someone like David invest time to come and visit us, it is such a wonderful experience for us all. David is such a lovely person and was so generous with his time. He was very relaxed and he chatted with ease, making everyone feel very special. Jasper and Taylor had a pool game they will never forget and will remember forever.
‘We would like to say a massive thank you to David and his team for organising this visit. David put a huge smile on everyone’s face and it will be such a special memory treasured by everyone who was there for a long time to come. We hope he enjoyed the visit as much as we did and will come and see us again.’
Mason Fernley said ‘David is one of my heroes and I never thought I would get to meet him so I’m very lucky. It surprised me how down to earth he was. It’s a memory that will stay with me forever. It was amazing to meet him. I’m not going to ever wash my signed football shirt from him. I don’t think he wanted to leave when he did as he was having a good time.’
Paul Fernley (Mason’s dad) told us ‘I thought David was so down to earth and it was an absolute pleasure to meet him. Having watched him play football for many years, it was so nice to be able to chat to him face to face and to ask him questions was amazing. He didn’t make us feel uncomfortable at all and the fact that he was there longer than expected meant that he was comfortable being there with us. Watching him play pool with the boys was also an absolute delight and to top it all off he even had time to sign some shirts and a book for us which will leave a long-lasting memory for us all.’
Jasper, who not only spoke to his hero but then met him said, ‘David was very nice. It was off the scale sensational to meet the best football player ever. I won a game of pool against him and he gave me a signed Miami football shirt. Thank you Helen & Douglas House for arranging this. I’ll remember it forever’.
Nicola and Phil (Jasper’s mum and dad) said ‘It was thrilling to meet David and see Jasper smiling from ear to ear. We are so pleased David was able to visit and support Helen & Douglas House. David is a true gentleman and legend. Helen & Douglas House is all about creating memories and Jasper had such a special day.’
Taylor Morgan said ‘I really liked his tattoos and really enjoyed the game of pool with him.’
Menetta Morgan (Taylor’s mum) said ‘It was an amazing day, enjoyed by everyone going by the huge smiles everyone had, including my own. It was very nice to see him and talk to him and to know that he also struggles at times to get his children to focus on schoolwork during the COVID lockdown just like a lot of us parents.’
David’s special visit was an incredible experience for many of the children and families who come to Helen & Douglas House, but we need your support to continue to care for and support our children and families, so please if you can, make a donation to Helen & Douglas House today.