Children's Charity for the Freeman Hospital

Here is the speech I gave at the official opening of the play facility, which Seb opened on 30th August 2014.

Good afternoon and welcome to you all.

Nadine, Seb and I are absolutely blown away by the amount of you who have taken time out of your busy lives to celebrate this very special day with us.

The fact that we asked you to share this event with us, makes you part of a select group of people. Because it is down to everyone here that this place exists. But before I do the formal stuff, I wonder if you might allow me the opportunity to share a few thoughts with you?

From where we stand I can see the room where Dr Richard Kirk and Paddy Walsh informed us that our beautiful son (not even 24 hours old) had a congenital heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot. Over there is the room we sat in waiting for the call to take Seb up to theatre and just across the other side of that building is the room that we kissed Seb on the head as he was taken into theatre. We didn’t know whether it would be the last time we would see him alive and sobbed as we felt our worst nightmare coming true! Recalling those moments I am reminded of our emotions (as if it were only yesterday); fear, loneliness and utter helplessness. Thanks to Asif, Richard, Paddy, Lesley and everyone else who cared for Seb; today is not just a day to celebrate an amazing playroom, but more importantly this world class facility with its skilled and dedicated team; because without them, Seb might not be here today!

Fast forward to any one of our many crazy challenges and the emotions shared before, couldn’t be more different. You could pick any of our challenges or fundraising events and words like camaraderie, teamwork, support and one hell of a lot of fun come to mind. Now don’t get me wrong; I’d be lying if I said every single moment of our fundraising has been fun. The nature of what we do requires a little suffering and pain; but in dark times, when you’re not sure where you will find the strength to continue you remember children like Seb, Rachel and Jack– all with us here today, because of this place.

So where did the fundraising actually start? We were sitting in intensive care watching over Seb. Minutes become hours, hours become days and your mind takes you to some very strange places. Yet in one of our lighter moments as Seb’s health started to improve we looked at each other, both thinking the same thing; we have to thank these guys for saving Seb. Our initial target was £120,000; an amount we thought would take us at least 5 years to achieve; an insane amount of money, but by putting this out there we thought people would either laugh thinking we were a little unhinged, or they’d stand up and support us. Thank the Lord the latter happened and in the September of that same year we started our first baby steps of fundraising by completing the Great North Run.

Over the following 5 years we have swum, cycled, run, hosted charity balls and one idiot even skied in a Mankini! On top of this there has been countless cake sales, Baby and Toddler Nearly New Sales, Birthday donations and more acts of generosity than I could possibly list right now. We’ve now raised £370,000, over three times our initial target and it’s because of all of you that we’ve been able to achieve this.
So why a Playroom?

Part of the reason we chose to focus on this was because of the scale of the project – matching our challenges, we also felt it would be the perfect legacy for our fundraising; but more important than both of these is because we believe passionately in the role this will play in helping children like Seb. Whether it assists in helping a child overcome their fear of an impending surgery, keeping siblings amused whilst their brother or sister is poorly or just allowing for an hour or two or respite from the monotony of being in a hospital bed all day. Many of the children who will be under the care of this Unit, will not understand why they are here or the reason they can’t play with their friends. Play represents the very thing that will allow them to be children again. Whilst some might argue that non-clinical support is not a vital area of investment for CHUF; we would wholeheartedly disagree. You only need look at the impact the Clown Doctors have when they spend time on the Unit to be convinced of that. If you wish to ask more technical questions about this play facility, then please take a moment to speak to Joanne and Vicki our Play Specialist Nurses as they will be able to give you a much greater understanding of why this is so important.

We hope you all feel incredibly proud of what has been achieved here; because it is your blood, sweat and tears that are in the very fabric of this facility. To be able to say that there is such a tangible and positive output to fundraising is not always easy, but I don’t think there is any doubt about that with this playroom.

I would like to make a couple of things clear in case any of you think it’s time to relax; this is not the end of this fundraising journey, it is merely a momentary pause to celebrate our achievements; so please don’t get ideas of changing your mobile numbers or email addresses!

But for today we would like you to celebrate the official opening of this playroom and enjoy the company of an amazing group of people

Check out all the photo’s here:
You can follow us on Twitter: @Seb4CHUF


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