Aidan’s project makes Christmas count for families

Simon and Lucy Pond with Caroline Davenport outside the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital in Brighton.

Sadly, Christmas isn’t always a happy time for every family. The reality is that some parents will spend time in hospital during the festive period whilst caring for their poorly child or baby.

However, thanks to wonderful initiatives like Aidan’s Christmas Dinner Project, we can help make their time in hospital that little bit better.

Many of you, our supporters, will already be aware of the project, but for those of you that aren’t, here’s a little bit more about it…

Gifting Christmas hampers to families in hospital

Aidan’s Christmas Dinner Project was set up five years ago by parents Lucy and Simon Pond in memory of their little boy Aidan. In partnership with Rockinghorse, they raise funds to gift families at the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital (the Alex) in Brighton with festive hampers.

The project has proved so successful that hampers are also gifted to families in the neighbouring Trevor Mann Baby Unit (TMBU). For the first time this year, they were also given to families in the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) at the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath.

The hampers contain practical treats for parents such as; tea, coffee, a cafetiere, homemade mince pies, brownies, Christmas pudding, and hand cream. Christmas dinner is even prepared and cooked by volunteers for families in hospital on the day.

Each year, hampers containing items that are non-perishable are donated to families on Christmas Eve. They are put together in partnership with Caroline Davenport from Davenports Catering, who has supported the project from the beginning. As an added treat, Middle Farm near Lewes supply vouchers for a family day out.

Lucy delivering hampers to families on the wards at the Alex.

75 hampers were donated in 2019

In the run up to Christmas, the project’s founder, Lucy (who now works as our Challenge Events Fundraising Manager) spent time getting the hampers ready to deliver to families on Christmas Eve. She was joined by volunteers Annie, Amanda and Kerstin who gathered at caterer Caroline’s house, to fill, wrap and pack the hampers.

In total, 75 hampers were delivered and distributed to families at the Alex, TMBU and SCBU. This year, Lucy arrived at the hospital’s in style, thanks to a branded van courtesy of Hugh (Caroline’s husband) from Dragon Signs.

Lucy says, “Although everyone was full of smiles on the day, many of the families I met were putting on brave faces. The thought of spending Christmas in hospital with a very poorly child or baby is a very worrying time. Thank you to everyone who has donated towards the project to honour Aidan’s memory and to help other parents going through tough times.”

Lucy with nurses on the High Dependency Unit at the Alex.

A small gesture making a big difference

The hampers and hot meals make such a big difference to families in hospital. Lucy has received wonderful feedback from some of the recipients, which we’re delighted to share with you:

“It has honestly made my Christmas. I really wasn’t expecting anything like this, and it’s helped me cope a little better today knowing that people do care. It’s my first Christmas in hospital and it’s with my three-week-old baby. I also have an 18-month toddler at home, so it is heart breaking for me to be here.

“Receiving this hamper and knowing that there will be a hot Christmas dinner too has made me that little bit happier. I want to thank you all.”

“Thank you so much. The hampers are amazing and receiving it made me cry when you gave it to us on the TMBU (happy tears!) it’s so thoughtful and kind of you all. Everyone here is wonderful and they couldn’t so it without your support. Thank you.”

“Thank you so much for doing this. The Christmas dinner was lovely and it’s such a great idea to support us parents during our time in hospital with a poorly child. You’ve made my day.”

The wonderful team of volunteers who cooked hot meals for families on Christmas Day.

Cooking dinners on Christmas Day

Lucy also ensures that hot meals are cooked for families at the Alex on Christmas day too. Five fantastic volunteers gave up their time on Christmas Day to prepare and cook 44 dinners for families having to remain in hospital. We are so grateful to Annie, Amanda, Sarah, Sam and Marsili for their support.

This service is made possible thanks to Martin, manager at Ronald McDonald House within the Alex, who kindly allows volunteers use the kitchen on the day.

Dr Ryan Watkins, consultant neonatologist at the TMBU, said, “I wanted to say a big thank you to you and your team for the amazing hampers and Christmas dinners.”

A nurse at the Alex, commented, “I am so grateful for and humbled by the hampers project that Lucy and Simon founded. As a nurse, I feel incredibly proud to be able to hand these hampers over to parents and to let them know that a hot meal is also available for them on Christmas Day.

“They are always so grateful and very often stunned. It is a very special project and a lovely way to remember Aidan too. Thank you so very much.”

Another parent, added, “We almost forgot what hot food looked like! Thank you so much for giving up your time to provide such a lovely dinner and happy faces, you are truly stars.”

Simon and Lucy Pond with Aidan and their daughter Evie.

2020 marks the sixth year of the project

It costs £3,500 a year to provide the hampers and meals for families each Christmas. To date, the project has raised almost £16,000 which is incredible.

Now in its sixth year, Lucy has already started fundraising to provide Christmas hampers to families in hospital again this year. You can make a donation or find out more by visiting the Aidan’s Christmas Dinner Project official Just Giving page: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/aidanschristmasdinner2020.

Thank you for your support.

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