Today (3rd July) marks 15 years since we officially opened our doors and cared for our first child in our Children’s Service.
It has been a huge journey for us and something we could have never achieved without the support of our local community. The people of the North East placed St Oswald's in their hearts and have kept us there. As a charity, we simply couldn't exist without their support.
To mark this special occasion, we thought we’d share the history about how the service first came about. Professor Sir Alan Craft, Head of Child Health, initiated the Children’s Hospice, recognising that there wasn’t a Children’s Hospice between Yorkshire and Scotland, leaving a huge gap for children with life-shortening conditions.
Children’s Hospices provide a vital short break service for families and Sir Alan wanted to ensure that no family had to travel over an hour to access this service. St Oswald’s was proposed as part of a new model which would make this happen.
May 2000 saw the launch of the Jigsaw Appeal, an appeal to build a purpose-built children’s respite centre. The Jigsaw Appeal – providing the missing piece – was supported by the individuals, companies and organisations in the region, and heavily supported by The Journal newspaper.
The appeal set to raise £5.1million, which was achieved in just three years, once again reinforcing the local community’s dedication to supporting hospice care.
Sue Cameron was crucial to the opening of the Children’s Service and has supported the Hospice for over 20 years. Her son, Alex, was born with an incurable condition. Alex died in 1996, seven years before the Children’s Service at St Oswald’s opened. When Alex died, Sue was committed to making sure families in a similar situation received the support they needed, leading to a £600,000 donation from her to make dreams of a Hospice for children a reality. She said:
My son Alex was born with brain damage and he attended a local special school. While we were there, some of the mums were approached about plans for a new children’s hospice as part of St Oswald’s. We were consulted about our children’s needs and shown the plans and asked what we would want from a hospice.
Alex’s condition had been caused due to complications during his birth and we were awarded a large payment to help with the very specialist and intensive care he would need. Sadly, Alex passed away at the end of 1996, and wasn’t able to benefit from the new children’s hospice. However, I wanted to help other children and families in similar positions. I donated £600,000 of the money which had been given to Alex and this money helped to really get the project underway.