Looking back at a wonderful 2022

The end of a year is always a good time for reflection. And as I...

Donna Holland with Dr Oli Rahman, Chair of Rockinghorse Trustees, at the Drop 360 in September

The end of a year is always a good time for reflection. And as I reflect on what Rockinghorse Children’s Charity has achieved in the past year, I only have one emotion: Pride. Pride for being part of a tiny team of experts who work so hard to improve the lives of children across Sussex, pride to be able to work alongside the incredible doctors and nurses all over Sussex who go above and beyond for children every day and pride for the difference the charity has made to thousands of children and their families this year.

As I look back on an incredibly action-packed year, here’s just a few of the things that stand out.

In January, we launched our new programme of champions. Champions are health care professionals who work in paediatric settings all over Sussex and who work with us throughout the year, and at dedicated project days, to create, shape and deliver services, programmes, activities and other projects for children and their families.

Everything that Rockinghorse Children’s Charity deliver and fund, comes directly from the doctors and nurses working in the children’s wards and baby units across Sussex. This means we know our projects address the issues children in Sussex are facing and are led by the needs of children, young people and their families.

Marcella Whittingdale at the Emerald Ball

In March, we ended our financial year with our Emerald Ball which celebrated 55 years of the charity and raised money to support teenagers with mental health issues. At the hospital we see first-hand the impact mental ill health is having on our young people when they struggle to cope and arrive in our Children’s Emergency Department distraught and with nowhere else to turn.

Sam Thomas and Gavin Willis

Our Emerald Ball raised a record breaking £60,000 and just three weeks later, a new Youth Worker, funded by the charity, started in the children’s A&E, supporting children and young people facing the most difficult of situations. The power of Rockinghorse’s ability to make instant and lasting change was captured that night.

In April, our Trustee, podcast host and co-founder of County Business Clubs, Sam Thomas and our wonderful supporter Gavin Willis, Founder and CEO of Search Seven, hosted the first ever Rockinghorse Ryder Cup. Team Yellow battled (and won over) Team Blue in two days of golf and very high winds! During 2022, Sam has also been doing an amazing Trustee 10k Challenge – and has since jumped out of a plane, completed a triathlon, done a 24-hour podcast and played 55 holes of golf in one day, all to raise money for the charity.

In May, we launched our new strategy. Strategic planning is a chance to take stock of what’s been achieved and look at what else needs doing; how we can improve on our efforts to support all children and their families when they need it most.

The Rockinghorse Strategy

Working with the Trustees we reviewed everything Rockinghorse Children’s Charity does, and could do, to support paediatric services across Sussex. The result is our first ever three-year Strategic Plan 2022-2025, which puts children and young people at the heart of our work and puts the charity at the heart of healthcare for children.

In July, we held our first supporter thank you event. Without our supporters we can’t do our work and so I want to thank everyone who has supported us over the past year. I’ve met so many of you, those wonderful folks, who do incredible things for the charity.

The runners and jumpers, the walkers and the trekkers, the bakers and makers, the companies and organisations who donate and sponsor us, the Trusts and Foundations who fund us, the community groups who support us and everyone who comes to our events. Together we are ensuring that children in Sussex get the best possible support and care when they are unwell. Thank you so much to all our supporters for everything you do for the charity and everything you enable us to do for children.

In October, I had a personally extraordinary moment when I was named a 2022 Women of the Year. The Women of the Year Awards celebrate women from across the UK and around the world who are doing remarkable work and making a difference to others. I’ve worked in the charity sector for more than twenty years now and over that time I’ve had the privilege to work on so many ground-breaking projects, game-changing campaigns and dial-moving programmes, with so many inspiring, committed and compassionate people.

Dr Alice Emond, Oncology Psychologist

Over that time, I’ve done some ridiculous things for charity – jumping off things, climbing up things, dressing up, getting blisters, and doing anything I can to raise money and awareness for causes close to my heart. I’d encourage anyone to support the charity sector anyway you can – your skills, experience and resources are needed now more than ever.

In November, the charity was shortlisted for a Children and Young People Now Award for our specialist oncology psychologist at the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital. These awards are the gold standard for anyone working with children, young people and families and showcase organisations like Rockinghorse that work, day in, day out, to improve the lives of children and young people in their communities.

Our oncology project is just one of more than 60 we’ve delivered this year – each one, supporting children and their families when they need it most. Of course, we are here for the bumps and breaks, and cuts and scrapes; but we are also here when it gets really serious and specialist.

Be a Rockinghorse Star

December is always a busy month for the charity, on top of delivering all our usual projects we bring Christmas to thousands of children all over Sussex.

We deliver advent calendars and gifts to children in hospital, we put on Christmas parties and festive activities, we bring Santa and donkeys to the hospitals, we deliver Christmas meals and hampers to families on Christmas day. We do everything we can to help children and their families feel more at home in hospital during Christmas.

This year, for the first time we asked people to Be a Rockinghorse Christmas Star and support our huge, magical projection at the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital in Brighton – when we wished all the children and their families a very Merry Christmas.

Thank you to everyone who has supported the charity and been part of our journey this year – we couldn’t do it without you.

Donna Holland

Chief Executive, Rockinghorse Children’s Charity