The hospice, in Poling, near Arundel, opened in November 2003 and to mark its milestone year, a range of activities are planned to thank supporters, promote the charity and celebrate 15 years of caring for life-limited children in Sussex and south east Hampshire.
A group of birthday patrons has been created to support the work of Chestnut Tree House throughout the year, alongside existing patrons of the charity.
Raymond Briggs has been a patron for over a decade and now his much-loved Snowman character, which turns 40 in 2018, will be used to help people understand the vital care services provided and see beyond the word hospice.
It was agreed the themes and emotions of The Snowman story – emphasising happy times and creating memories rather than the sad ending – made The Snowman the ideal ambassador for a children’s hospice, where the focus is on providing wonderful care, experiences and precious memories of happy times together.
Joining The Snowman are 12 other birthday patrons for 2018, who will support and advise the charity, each contributing in their own way. They are paralympic equestrian champion Natasha Baker, author Julia Donaldson and her husband Malcolm, singer Chesney Hawkes, East Sussex ambassadors Jacquie and Barry Hinves, model Jodie Kidd, artist Lester Magoogan, international polo player Nic Roldan, Brighton and Hove Albion FC captain Bruno Saltor, musician Joe Stilgoe and businessman Matt Turner.
Linda Perry, director of children’s services, said: “The hospice itself may not have opened until 2003 but there was work going on in the background around the need for palliative care for children in Sussex since 1997.
“Chestnut Tree’s community team was launched in 2001, with the first charity shop opening in Arundel the following year, and then the house was built and officially opened on November 11, 2003, by Her Royal Highness, Princess Alexandra.
“A lot has changed since we first opened our doors in 2003 and we could not have helped the 833 children and families we have over the last 15 years without the help and support of the local community.
“Without the donations, fundraisers, volunteers and gifts in wills, we simply wouldn’t be able to continue providing the specialist care that is vital to so many children and young people in Sussex and South East Hampshire. To everyone who has helped us over the last 15 years, I would like to say a heartfelt thank you from all the children, families and staff at Chestnut Tree House.
“Our patrons are great ambassadors for Chestnut Tree House, offering us a range of support and advice, and we look forward to working with our honorary 15th birthday patrons during 2018.”
Chestnut Tree House provides care and support to around 300 children with life-shortening conditions and their families across East Sussex, West Sussex and south east Hampshire, both at the hospice and in families’ own homes.
The cost of providing this vital service is more than £3.5million per year but the hospice receives less than seven per cent central government funding, so relies heavily on the support of the local community to continue providing vital care to local children and families.