Worcester Warriors chairman Cecil Duckworth joined Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Gloucester as Acorns Children’s Hospice was officially opened on Wednesday (May 16).
Mr Duckworth is one of the original benefactors of Acorns Worcester and was a specially invited guest as The Duchess opened of the state-of-the-art 10-bed children’s hospice facility in the city – one of Worcester Warriors four chosen charities this season.
The Duchess met local dignitaries and guests, the builders and architects, and 82-year-old June Sayce who, with her late husband Willie, donated the land where the hospice stands. The couple owned three acres of land behind their Bath Road home and had rejected large cash offers from other builders. They were deeply touched by the plight of seriously ill children and the work of Acorns to support them, and wanted to help by giving the land.
The Duchess also met children and families who currently use Acorns including baby Harry Gale who was born with serious heart problems and has been using the hospice since his diagnosis in November last year.
After six years of planning and building, Acorns Worcester opened its doors to the first families on March 14, 2005. The state-of-the-art facility features a hydro-therapy pool and Jacuzzi – essential tools for relaxing children and families under stress and unlocking the potential of many disabled children; a multi-sensory room filled with water beds, bubble lamps and fibre-optic lights; an adolescents’ wing where teenagers have their own bedrooms and a lounge with computers, a football and pool table – a place that gives them privacy and independence; and family rooms where parents can stay whilst their child receives specialist care close by.
David Strudley, Acorns’ Chief Executive, said: “We are absolutely delighted that some of the children and families who use Acorns Worcester, and the people of Worcester and the Three Counties who helped us to build a specialist children’s hospice in Worcester, were able to share this day with us.
“Acorns Worcester is a state-of-the-art facility that provides specialist care for more than 250 life-limited children and their families from the Three Counties and parts of Warwickshire. Acorns Worcester cost £4 million to build and it costs £4,500 per day to run the unit, 80% of that money comes from the local community.
“The Worcester Hospice is very much at the heart of the local community who have been tremendous in raising the funds to keep the unit open during a difficult last twelve months.”
Since it opened, Acorns Worcester has seen steady growth in the number of children and families who use it, with Gloucestershire currently being the fastest growing area for GP referrals. However, last year the charity’s funds were affected by the end of a lottery grant and the global fundraising efforts needed to alleviate natural disasters such as the Tsunami. But thanks to a massive fundraising effort from the local community, the Duchess helped the hospice to finally celebrate opening a full 10-bed capacity unit.
Mr Strudley continued: “Last year, due to a serious shortage of funds, we were forced to close four beds out of every ten that we have in our hospices.
“Acorns never compromises the high-level of care given to children and families, and so the tough decision was made to reduce our output simply to sustain the unique care and support we give.
“After a massive fundraising effort by our local community we finally celebrate being a fully functioning 10-bed hospice unit once again.”
To find out more about Acorns, please visit www.acorns.org.uk