Martin House marks 25 years

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Martin House was borne out of the drive of the Reverend Richard Seed after being approached by a group of Leeds paediatricians to help set up a northern hospice.

After the blood, sweat and unstinting determination of the then vicar of Boston Spa and his dedicated team of volunteer fundraisers, the dream came true and the foundations laid to support terminally ill children and their families.

But 25 years on, the battle to raise the £4.6million annual cost for this service, rages on.

Head of fundraising at the facility which provides care to 300 youngsters, Alyson Wort said: “Martin House has always been and hopefully always will be at the heart of the local community.

“We care for local children and families and it is thanks to the local community who originally raised the funds to build Martin House in 1987.

“Remarkably it is that same community who continue to support us 25 years on.

“I am always in awe of the efforts made by so many people, giving their time, their expertise and their donations.

“With their help and continued commitment, we shall continue to care for everyone who needs us.”

The events lined up for the silver year include the Martin House Anniversary Games on April 22 at Leeds Grammar School, a Pink Tie and Tiara Ball at Wetherby Rugby Club on April 28, a dragon boat race at Roundhay Park in Leeds on May 20 and a Grand Day Out on the Northern Belle Orient Express train to Bath on June 30.

Alyson added: ”In the financial year 2010/11 we had a bumper year for legacies, ie people leaving money to us in their wills in that we received over a million pounds which was phenomenal.

“However, coming up to the end of this financial year we currently have only about half that amount.

“This shows two main things – one, just how important legacy income is to us and two, how very vulnerable that makes us feel.”

As well as organising its own major events the hospice buys places in events such as the Great North Run, Jane Tomlinson Run For All events and the Great North Swim.

“People also hold events for us and send us the proceeds such as golf days, bike rides etc,” added Alyson.

“Events play a large part in our fundraising activity but they are labour intensive and can be high risk in terms of, for example, ensuring sufficient tickets sales but they also help us maintain a high profile locally and regionally.

“We have a small number of people who give to us by standing order and we have two-and-a-half thousand members of our Lottery and a very small number of company employees who donate to us through payroll giving.”

But over the 25 years it has been proved time and again just how much patients and their families value the effort it takes to keep the hospice doors open to them.

Head of care Sheila O’Leary said: “From the beginning we knew that for each family that needed to use us it was important that they were accepted as a family who were individuals and that the care and support we provided recognized their individual needs as they travelled along their life journey.

“Although all the children who are accepted at Martin House have a life limiting condition we acknowledge that children are children first.

“As well as the families valuing the clinical care offered, they welcome the times where magical memories are made.

“As one mum said memories of happy fun times at Martin House are one of the things that can see us through and help us to remember the wonderful times we shared with our little boy.

Sheila added: “As head of care I am constantly amazed by the children and their families and feel privileged.

“Martin House has helped families to discover the way to travel along their journey, a journey full of mixed emotions and that for all of the families they have felt listened to, respected and valued.”

The appeal that was started by the Rev Seed is a legacy that Martin House hopes will see out another 25 years.

For the events log on to www.martinhouse.org.uk or phone 01937 844569.