In other news stories we report on our work raising money for charities at our public fairs and festivals and record the success we have achieved. However we also assist such groups by our provision of rides and stalls to charities, large and small, for their own fund raising events. Throughout the year we provide many attractions for smaller groups who hire in our equipment and then use this to raise much needed funds of perhaps £ 1000 or more at their functions, and it is always a pleasure to assist them. However this piece will focus on the astonishing efforts of Helen and Douglas House at their Big Top Themed event, shown above.
Helen and Douglas House is a charity who provide respite and end of life care for children and young adults with life-shortening conditions, as well as support and friendship for the whole family. They have two hospice houses which are bright, vibrant and positive places where the emphasis is on living life to the full, even when that life may be short.
There are many families in the UK who are caring for a child or young adult with a life shortening illness, 24 hours a day 7 days a week. This can put a strain on the whole family. Relationships can suffer, careers are abandoned, and of course other siblings can feel unloved and unwanted because their parents seem to focus on their unwell brother or sister. Families can feel alone and afraid in their grief. There are hospices all around the country who provide essential and welcome support to such families, and Helen and Douglas House are one such organisation.
However the funding needed to manage this is vast and this is a job that, if it is to be done, must be done properly and lovingly providing first class facilities for their guests. Significant resources are required and so members of the Hospice movement rely on donations and funds from supporters. Helen and Douglas House, because of the superb quality of their work, have got the most impressive list of supporters who assist including Corporations and individuals. Irvin Leisure was proud to be asked to provide equipment for their major fundraising day on and absolutely astonished to learn that this one event had raised a staggering £155,000 for the hospice, enough they say to provide 5 full time nursing staff! What an achievement.
Helen and Douglas House are supported by Audi (UK), Honda (UK) and also News International, and perhaps because of their links with the motor trade Jeremy Clarkson and his wife Francie are supporters of the charity, or perhaps because of Jeremy’s backing Audi and Honda got involved. Who cares? It works.
Along with the Carousel and Helter Skelter, the event had Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, Trinny Woodall (so the place had to look good or cross words may have been exchanged!), Alex James from Blur, Nick Mason from Pink Floyd, plus Richard Hammond too. The warm up to Jeremy Clarkson’s auction came from Rob Brydon and Brian Conley, and one of the prizes was the latest Audi TT Coupe. Better than a cuddly toy!
However the theme was the Big Top Ball and it was based on a Circus Theme, placed in a Big Top with the Helter Skelter forming the centre piece. Adding to the fun, along with the Carousel, were stilt walkers, jugglers, magicians and an actual simulator Formula 1 racing car provided by the Honda team (now perhaps being copied by McLaren).
It was a fantastic evening, enjoyed by all but the speeches from mothers of children with life shortening illnesses reminded everyone of the reason for the function. Anyone who, like me, has had the honour of visiting hospices similar to Helen and Douglas House will realise that their preconceptions of these being places of sadness and depression are wrong. They are wonderful homes that provide worthwhile opportunities for young people who are in need of this, and breaks for families who deserve some reward for their dedication to their children. Visit their website www.helenanddouglas.org.uk to learn more about their work, their supporters and the many events in which they have been involved.
I often feel that organisations such as Helen and Douglas House and the families that they give so much to should not need to rely on fund raising to provide these essential services. They should perhaps be fully supported through Government funding. And yet seeing the enthusiasm and assistance generated by this fund raising event and their other activities I now think that this is enabling people who care but do not have the medical skills and knowledge needed to give practical assistance to contribute ways of getting involved. Some are assisting by organising such events, others by using their celebrity status to help raise money. Many more attend and donate money to this good cause but all are involved in practical help. Whether or not the Government gives enough to this key sector can be a matter for debate, but this is a partnership that works and a demonstration of how the voluntary sector at its best is so important to the fabric of society in Britain in the 21st Century.