The story of Aidan’s project

Aidan-hampers-pic1 Aidan-hampers-pic2

Parents Lucy and Simon Pond brought extra festive cheer to young patients and their families at the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital (the Alex) in Brighton at Christmas by providing special festive hampers.

In memory of their son Aidan, Lucy and Simon set up Aidan’s Christmas Dinner Project and we are very proud to have supported the cause for the last two years, providing festive dinner kits which were delivered to families in the hospital on Christmas Eve.

Lucy has been kind enough to write a special blog post about Aidan and the Christmas Dinner Project – here’s her story…

“In 2013 we spent Christmas as a family at the Alex. Our little boy Aidan, aged 19 months, was terminally ill with a rare genetic disease call Mitochondrial Disease and he needed a ventilator to stay alive. We knew this would be our last Christmas with our beautiful, brave little boy, and we had to stay with him around the clock as he could not manage a few hours without his ventilator.

The dedicated children’s hospital staff are amazing at Christmas and we’ll never forget the warmth of the wonderful nurses, along with a visit from Father Christmas on the ward. Alas, due to logistical issues, a Christmas dinner was not provided for families unfortunate enough to have a sick child in hospital.

Fortunately my mum was able to get to Asda, battled the queues and amazingly cobbled together a lunch in the Ronald Macdonald House (home from home accommodation located opposite the Alex) kitchen.

Aidan passed away at the Alex on 1st March 2014, and in his memory, it was our overwhelming aim to provide funding of a Christmas dinner at the Alex for the future. We felt this would leave a legacy for Aidan and the brilliant nurses who cared for him.

In the summer of 2014, we met with the head of nursing at the Alex, along with Rockinghorse Children’s Charity, to talk about our experience. We came up with the idea of a Christmas Dinner Kit, containing everything a family needs to make special meal just by heating it up – the Aidan’s Christmas Dinner Project was born.

We immediately started fundraising and to date, we have raised over £6,000. So far, this has enabled us to provide 40 Christmas Dinner kits in 2014, and 55 kits in 2015, which included families with sick babies being cared for in the neighbouring Trevor Mann Baby Unit.

We know that the wards try to get as many children home at Christmas as possible, and this might mean getting discharged Christmas Eve night or even Christmas day morning. For this reason, the kit is transportable and families can also enjoy it at home.

Some of the items included in the hampers are; peeled and chopped potatoes and seasonal vegetables, a smoked chicken (which can be eaten hot or cold), stuffing, pigs in blankets, ready to heat gourmet gravy, a Harvey’s Brewery Christmas Pudding, plus napkins and crackers. We also include a gift for mums and dads (this was important because the children receive so many presents, but parents are often forgotten about). There is also a tree decoration to remember Aidan by, hand made by our friends and family.

For Christmas 2015, we also had a wonderful gesture from the Jones family (pictured above), who gave up their Christmas Day to cook all the dinners for families who could not leave their child to cook it themselves. Clare Jones and her family did a superb job of providing approximately 30 cooked and plated dinners, and Clare had this to say about her family’s very unique Christmas Day:

“My husband, two kids and myself had such a great day getting the Christmas lunches ready for those at the Alex. We were so warmly welcomed by the staff, parents and patients, and the hampers were a delight to cook, very easy and delicious and so full of goodies!

When we arrived, I met a few parents before getting to grips with the oven and kitchen facilities. Meanwhile, my husband and children got the Christmas dinner orders. I couldn’t have been prouder of my children who quickly worked out what to do, and by the end of the day they were running around the wards, delivering puddings and collecting plates – I burst with pride thinking about it.

By the time the last plate was washed and our bags were packed, I felt a real sense of achievement. One of my main aims was to make Christmas Day feel special to the patients and parents and judging by the lovely feedback we received, I think we did that.  We left mid-afternoon and so had plenty of the day left to enjoy Christmas with our families.

The whole experience was a delight from start to finish and will be something that I will never forget, an opportunity that I am very grateful for my family and I to have received. Thank you to everyone who was so brilliant to us on Christmas Day!”

Simon and I are so proud of this project. To think that two years ago, there was no option for families to have Christmas Dinner if they were in hospital with their child.

We would also like to thank the volunteers sourced by Rockinghorse who helped make up the 55 hampers at Middle Farm (our sponsor). This included packing them, wrapping them and driving them to the hospital on Christmas Eve.

We are eternally grateful to Louise at Rockinghorse, who did a fantastic job of finding a sponsor for the kits, and supports our project whole heartedly. In addition a special thanks should be given to Caroline at Middle Farm, Lewes, who agreed to provide the hampers for not only this year but every year.

What has touched me the most, is that in between Christmas 2015 and New Year, a number of donations were pledged by families who had received a hamper. They were in a situation they never dreamed of being in, and yet they were so grateful to receive a kit, they donated to help other people who will sadly find themselves in a similar situation this year.

Together with the support of Rockinghorse and Middle Farm, we plan to make the project bigger and better each year – and what a legacy for Aidan, our very special little boy.

For more information about the project, or to make a donation, please visit: www.justgiving.com/aidanschristmasdinnerproject2016

Lucy, Simon and Evie Pond

Back to news