Top event will keep kids smiling

WHEN you walk into Ipswich Children's Hospice there is a sense that you have walked in to the well lived-in and slightly chaotic front door of a family home – and this is just how they want it.

By Victoria Knowles

WHEN you walk into Ipswich Children's Hospice there is a sense that you have walked in to the well lived-in and slightly chaotic front door of a family home – and this is just how they want it.

But care and dedication comes at a price.

The hospice is about to get a big fund-raising boost from the pop concert Reachout 2002. Victoria Knowles went along to the hospice to find out just what this means to them.

Brightly coloured mobiles dance from the ceilings and toys spill onto the sun dappled floor in the conservatory.

Ipswich Children's Hospice is full of life, and a feeling of happiness.

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But each year it faces a battle to raise enough funds to keep helping the children and families as the heart of its work.

While there's some Government aid it's by no way near enough to pay for annual running costs.

As a result East Anglian Children's Hospices (EACH), in Ipswich, Quiddenham in Norfolk and Milton in Cambridgeshire rely on charitable donations, bequests and gift aid.

And with running costs of £3.5million keeping the charity in the public eye is essential.

That's why, says team leader Sheila Gould Reachout 2002 is so important. "We rely totally on donations to get by," she said.

"The children and families are so excited about going to the concert and all we can do is urge Suffolk to get behind it and raise as much as possible. There are more than 80 people going from the hospice and it should be a great day," she enthused.

Reachout 2002 will probably be one of the biggest days of entertainment the region has seen. Blue and Liberty X are among the names performing but there will also be illusionists, dancers, a state-of-the-art funfair and a fireworks display.

A quick look round the Ipswich hospice in Walker Road and it is understandable why they are so desperate to raise funds. There is a great deal going on as Shelia says: "there's never a dull moment" - but this costs money.

"We have a water therapy and sensory room. The children get a lot out of the water therapy and we also have a bath which doubles up as a jacuzzi.

There are four children's bedrooms and a parents room so that they can stay with them.

"We wanted to make this a home from home and I think we have achieved this. We have water fights and cooking and there is always something going on," she added as she waved goodbye to a harpist who had been playing for the children.

There is no doubt this is a happy place built on a need to offer children with life-limiting conditions a place to live and enjoy life while giving parents a place of comfort and support.

In an average year the three hospices care for around 350 families and also provide help and counselling for bereaved families.

Robin Sharp is the community fund raiser for EACH.

"When Reachout 2002 comes off it will be the biggest thing we have ever been involved in. Apparently the concert stands to raise £100,000.

"We want to raise awareness about the hospice and work we do. I am sure there are lots of families who we could help who simply do not know about us." he said.

Examples of how the money from Reachout 2002 could be used:

£15 Paints, paper and other children's arts and crafts materials for one month for one hospice.

£25 6 new children's picture story books, or new children's videos, or 2 new computer games £50 Children's outing to cinema/ zoo/ adventure playground/ bowling or similar for 4 children plus 3

nursing staff/care workers.

£100 Electricity costs for running the multi-sensory room at one of their hospices for one week.

£250 Medication, pain relieving drugs, and disposables (wet wipes, nappies, rubber gloves) for one hospice for two months.

£2000 One new piece of medical equipment, such as a Sats Monitor to check oxygen levels of children on ventilator breathing machines.

£10000 The cost of children's Music Therapy at one hospice for one year, including all equipment and instruments.

£20000 One fully trained Family Support Worker for one year, including all costs such as petrol for travel to the children's homes, etc.

£50000 Care for 6 children for one year (£335 per bed per day per child x average 25 days care per year).

Tickets for Reachout 2002 at the Norfolk Showground on September 8 can be bought be calling the hotline on 0871 8716979

Or logging on to www.reachout2002.com

To find out more about East Anglian Children's Hospices go to www.each.org.uk

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