Children's hospice gears up for opening

THE final touches are being put into place at the Chestnut Tree House children's hospice.

The carpets are down, the kitchens have been fitted and the hydrotherapy suite looks tempting, as visitors saw during an open day for families, supporters and the press.

"We are trying to ensure everything is fully functional before we open," explained St Barnabas' chief executive Hugh Lowson about the process of tidying up loose ends going on at the moment.

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The hundreds of pieces of equipment, from the purely functional items, such as bed hoists, to the more recreational items like the computer games, are being tested thoroughly before the hospice opens its doors.

Children and their families will be able to attend the hospice on a daytime basis from July 4 and they will be able to stay the night from November 1. A date for the official opening has yet to be set.

Chestnut Tree House will be the 25th children's hospice to open in the UK.

"Opening the hospice will mean that St Barnabas' will be able to care for people of all ages," said Mr Lowson.

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Most of the money has now been raised to build and equip the hospice and fundraisers are about to embark on the next stage, that of raising the 1.5 million needed each year to cover the hospice's running costs.

Fundraising co-ordinator Paul Morris paid tribute to the individuals and organisations, who had given so generously to make Chestnut Tree House possible. He also paid tribute to Lady Sarah Clutton, who leased the land to St Barnabas' for 125 years.

"According to the terms of the lease, we will give Lady Sarah 12 lilies '” none of them white '“ and a brand new 1 coin," he explained.

It seems as though no stone has been left unturned at the hospice. Children and families were consulted to provide the best facilities possible.

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It is all about providing a home from home and there will be no uniforms, rules or room numbers.

Instead, rooms have names, children and families can come and go as they please and can choose to eat their meals alone or together in the relaxed family area.

As well as the hydrotherapy suite, which comprises a deep pool and spa, there is also the fantastic multi-sensory room, where children can enjoy bright colours, sounds and textures.

St Barnabas' director of children's services, Kate Barker, explained: "It's somewhere for any child or teenager to explore a range of stimuli to discover their senses. Children may have difficulty communicating with others and it will provide them with a safe place to explore their world, and maybe share with their brothers and sisters."

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St Barnabas' wish to provide the very best for children in Sussex has come true, thanks to hard work and support of staff, volunteers and, of course, fundraisers.

Mr Lowson added: "We didn't want to skimp on anything. We wanted to provide facilities that would last and that the children really wanted.

"Having two youngsters myself, I know that the children are most definitely worth it."

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