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New Children’s Hospice Service unveiled at Glittering Gala Dinner

More than 220 guests enjoyed a Glittering Gala Dinner hosted by former England cricket captain Chris Cowdrey which raised in excess of £70,000 to support the launch of our new Service for Children and Young People.

Gala Dinner tablesetting

Held in the beautiful grounds of Tonbridge School, the event, sponsored by Beau Property and NFU Mutual (Flimwell Agency), guests were welcomed with a drinks reception, followed by dinner and a live auction with prizes including golf at Royal St George’s Golf Club and four tickets for La Bohème at Glyndebourne.

A luxury trip to the Monaco Grand Prix and Christmas in New York were among the prize lots in the evening’s silent auction, before guests danced the night away to music from the Hot Shoes Band.

Boy laughing in children's centre

We have provided free care for adults with a terminal illness, and their loved ones, in West Kent and northern East Sussex for more than 40 years. The Gala Dinner was held to celebrate extending our services to children with life limiting conditions and their families, which will be known as ‘Hospice in the Weald for Children’.

Hospice Chief Executive Nick Farthing told guests how staff have been working with local families and organisations to ensure the new service can best meet their needs:

  • Families will be offered home visits, to reduce strain on them and enable children to stay in the comfort of their own home.
  • Counselling support for the whole family will be provided to help families cope with the emotional impact of diagnosis on daily life.
  • Guests also heard about plans for a new Children’s Centre, in the existing Pembury building, where children can safely play, enjoy sensory activities and have fun.

A range of specialist equipment is needed to provide support and comfort to children and their families at all stages of their care. During the auction, many guests bid to purchase ‘cuddle cots’ or cold mats.* These are devices used to manage a child’s body temperature after a child has died, enabling families to spend more precious moments together in the privacy of their own homes.

During the evening, Nick introduced a video featuring the story of Philippa, who poignantly told of the difference such Hospice care made for her son Daniel and her family. Philippa said: “Daniel was such a cheeky chappie, everybody loved him. His diagnosis, at just eight months, was a bombshell as there was no history of Duchene muscular dystrophy in our family. We were just not prepared at all. Life suddenly went in a completely different direction.

“Families need these services to pick up the gaps in the system. They need the fully trained staff, their day to day is really hard. They need respite both for the child to have a treat and be looked after, and for themselves to have some breathing space to cope. I’d encourage everyone to get involved and support this.”

Chris Cowdrey, Simon Lee (President), Gary Withers (Chair) and Nick Farthing (CEO) at Gala Dinner

Reflecting on the evening, Nick said: “The Gala Dinner was a wonderful opportunity to share our exciting plans to provide hospice care for children, and we are delighted by the generosity shown to raise funds. Special thanks to our auction donors and sponsors Beau Property and NFU Mutual.

“With the number of children needing Hospice care set to grow significantly over the next few years, and families struggling to access support, there is a real and urgent need for this new service.

“Children’s Hospice in the Weald aims to lighten the load for families by providing free care for children and young people – and their families – and we can only do that with the continued help of our fantastic supporters.”