A mad hatter’s tea party was held at St Oswald’s hospice at the weekend to celebrate the 10th birthday of its invaluable children and young adults service.
Staff - who were dressed as Lewis Carroll’s most famous characters, including Alice , the Queen of Hearts and the White Rabbit – had transformed the children’s unit at the hospice on Regent’s Avenue, Gosforth, Newcastle, into a wonderland complete with a magician, face painter, clog dancers, group of musicians, and arts and crafts stall, courtesy of staff from Seven Stories, the national centre for children’s books in the Ouseburn.
Around 50 families who currently make use of the respite care service the unit provides, were invited to pop in for tea, cake and associated fun, to mark a decade of offering children with life-limiting illnesses a place to go for short breaks, while giving their loved ones some much-needed time to themselves.
Families from across the region – Northumberland, Tyne and Wear and North Durham – are able to access the specialist services and enjoy the friendly home from home environment which has become a hallmark of time at St Oswald’s.
The Journal was a big supporter of the Jigsaw Appeal which raised £5.1m to open the unit in 2003. Since then, a pilot scheme to offer a bridge of care for young adults between 18 and 25 has been successfully piloted.
Jackie “Tweedle Dum” Bolam, children and young adults service manager said: “I’m so proud of the services we are able to offer North East children and young adults with progressive, life shortening conditions. Since we opened our doors in 2003 we have welcomed many families, who have all helped us to learn so much and develop our services.
“A huge thank you must go to ChART (Children’s Hospice Arts) which was the main sponsor. Without them the day wouldn’t have been possible.”
The very first child to use the service, Jonathan Rogerson, 23, from Alnwick, was on hand to cut the birthday cake. Jonathan’s mother Gloria said: “It’s hard to believe it has been 10 years since we were welcomed into the St Oswald’s ‘family’.
“Jonathan was the first child to be referred to St Oswald’s when he was 14, so he really has grown up with the hospice.
“St Oswald’s is a truly wonderful place with amazing staff. When Jonathan is at St Oswald’s I get a little time to myself and I wouldn’t like to think how different our lives would be without the service.”