It’s World Mental Health Day on 10 October. In one sense, well, yes, who cares, awareness days are a bit rubbish. But in another sense, actually I care because mental health is a big thing for me and it’s important so I’m going to use it as a hook for this blog.
Everybody has mental health, and everybody has mental health problems once in a while. It’s like physical health - no-one’s in perfect shape all the time. But if protecting our mental health had the same status as looking after ourselves physically, then a lot of unnecessary suffering might be prevented. And if addressing crises in our mental health was as much a part of our way of being as when something goes really wrong physically, then maybe the UK wouldn’t have 6,000 fatalities from suicide every year.
Lots of people have mental health problems – one in four people every year. It’s really very common. That’s more people than support Manchester United or answer their phones in the cinema. But unlike those two more shameful things, there is still an embarrassment and stigma to talking about mental illness.
Given that all the time we’re surrounded by people who have had, and are having, mental health problems, World Mental Health Day could be a time when all those people shout out loud and proud about it. Then all the people who might not have spoken about their own mental health worries because they’re embarrassed or ashamed might also feel able to do so. And all the people who are currently struggling with mental illness might experience understanding and respect rather than discrimination and fear.
I have depression, from time to time. I have no embarrassment about it, because it’s part of me and I think I’m generally an OK person. When I was younger I had some nasty episodes. Now I don’t, although I’m occasionally a little bit blue for no reason. Not everyone is that lucky, but it’s important that whether things are going well or badly, those of us with direct experience show that mental health problems are nothing to be ashamed of, and there is usually recovery, hope and happiness ahead.
That’s important not least in the work we do at Demelza. If you think that living with a life-limiting condition might not affect your mental health then you’re mad (pun intended). That goes for being a child or young person with a serious health condition, or being a parent or sibling. It’s why we offer therapies and other support. In a mentally-friendly world it feels OK to talk about our own mental health with someone, and get help if needed. We can make little worlds like that where we are, in our workplaces, homes, families and friendship groups. And where we have the opportunity, we can do it in our blogs.
The devilish hands of a dirty dozen cooks rustled up dinner for 200 – and more than £100,000 for Demelza.
On one of the hottest days of the year, brothers Mel and Andrew Streek from Marden and 10 of their mates took over the kitchens of the Goudhurst Inn to create a Chinese feast fit for an Emperor.
Mel and Andrew are long-term supporters of Demelza and wanted to do something extra-special to raise funds for the cause.
Under the guidance of Alex Tang, from the Honeymoon Chinese Restaurant in Tenterden, they came up with a mouthwatering menu – and an auction backed by some of the biggest business names around.
The Streek brothers, directors of Claygate Distribution in Pattenden Lane, Marden, were supported by celebrity journalist and TV quizmaster Ian Hislop, TV presenter and antiques expert Raj Bisram, West Indies cricket legend Gordon Greenidge and local auctioneer Clive Emson.
Demelza’s Major Donor Manager Sarah Kemsley said: “We are so proud of everyone who helped make this such a successful event.
“We have a lot of people to thank, particularly Richard Balfour-Lynn of Hush Heath Winery and the nearby Goudhurst Inn, for donating the venue and wine, Four J’s for the wonderful Marquee and Nortrade and Handcross Butchers, who donated the majority of the food.”
All the printing and marketing supplies were donated by local companies and the auction and raffle prizes were donated by businesses and acquaintances.
Sarah said: “Clive Emson, Ian Hislop and Raj Bisram were just brilliant and all the volunteers were wonderful, not forgetting the generous individuals who purchased tickets and bid for various lots.”
The evening raised £101,000 for Demelza to support the work the charity does with some 500 children with life-limiting illness in the South East and their families.
The October sunshine shone brightly as people turned out to our South East London Community Fun Day.
Dozens came along to Demelza SEL
, our hospice in Eltham on Sunday 2 October, to find out more about their local children’s hospice and to have lots of fun at the stalls and games.
Crowds were entertained by local band Decks and Quartz – made up of four talented 13-year-old friends from Eltham.
Manager Brian Hughes, dad of guitarist Oliver Hughes, said: “It’s been a great experience for them being able to play at Demelza. We were told about the Community Fun Day by a mum associated with the charity and the boys wanted to give their time to help. It’s been really good for them to learn about the amazing work Demelza do.”
Angel Beacroft, Miss Face of the Globe England, drew the raffle and lots of Demelza volunteers helped to run the stalls, including the tombola, jewellery, cakes, Christmas cards, bag a bag and hook a duck.
Ryan Campbell, CEO at Demelza said: “I want to say thank you to everybody who came along to the Community Fun Day and to everyone who helped out at this great event. Sometimes people think of us mainly as a Kent charity, but we are just as much the local children’s hospice charity for South East London.
“Building profile in London is one of the most important things for us to do right now, so more children and families in the capital can live their lives to the full.”
Two staff from our community nursing team are limbering up to take on the trek of their lives.
The Eastbourne Beachy Head Marathon is one of the biggest off-road marathons in the UK and takes place this year on Saturday 29 October.
Among those getting into shape for the 26.2 mile trek along a challenging route through the South Downs National Country Park are Katie Wilmshurst and Jo Taylor from Demelza's community nursing team in East Sussex.
Katie from Hailsham has roped her mum Karen Wilmshurst into the mission, while Jo has persuaded husband Rob to share in her pain. The couple live in Maresfield, East Sussex. The girls have set themselves a target of £515.
Jo said: “Katie and I are really excited to be walking the Beachy Head marathon. We are also aware of what a huge challenge this is and Rob and I definitely need to get in a few long practice walks beforehand!”
Katie said: “I’ve done a few fun runs and a 10K for Demelza – but never anything as far as this. Hopefully, by walking and jogging, we can complete the course in about 7 hours – in daylight!”
Thousands of people are expected to take part in the marathon, which includes over 300 steps and 14 gates, passing through Jevington, Alfriston, Litlington, Friston Forest, the Cuckmere Valley and Seven Sisters, including Birling Gap and Beachy Head.
Julie Brett, Demelza’s Community Fundraiser in East Sussex, said: “Jo and Katie already give so much of their time and love to our Demelza families, it’s just brilliant that they are willing to literally go the extra mile by training and taking part in this marathon feat – all in their own time.”
The Eastbourne Beachy Head marathon is popular for its particularly scenic, if challenging, route along the coastal path. There is a 10K option for those who don’t think they can manage the full course.
Both races start from St Bede’s School in Eastbourne.
For further details, visit www.beachyheadmarathon.co.uk
To donate, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/demelzateam4
Grateful thanks go to the 29 members of Sevenoaks Lawn Tennis Club who held a fun tennis tournament to raise vital funds for Demelza.
Organised by club administrator Melanie Eagle, the tournament consisted of four rounds of seven game doubles matches, with different partners for each round. After some highly entertaining tennis and some very closely fought matches, Sally Rothman and Alan Burner emerged as the overall winners.
They were presented with luxury Tea Time hampers from Fortnum and Mason, generously provided by Sevenoaks estate agents Hamptons International.
After a great afternoon of tennis in the sunshine, players enjoyed afternoon tea and cakes at the club.
Demelza trustee Rhiannedd Brooke, who is a member of Sevenoaks LTC, said: “I am overwhelmed by the generosity of the participants in this wonderful tennis tournament. Demelza is a really important local charity which helps children who may not live a long life to at least live a full life.
“This £650 donation enables Demelza to offer a range of support including therapies such as art and music and baby massage, all of which help families to cope with illness and bereavement.”
More than 500 visitors turned out to support Demelza when the charity threw open the doors of its Kent Hospice to the public.
Guests had a chance to tour the hospice and see the fantastic facilities which enable children with life-limiting illness to make the most of every day.
There were appearances from Peppa Pig, Demelza’s mascot Dotty and Kent Fire and Rescue Service, with music from Sittingbourne’s local radio station SFM 106.9 and the UK Paper band.
The chocolate tombola was a firm favourite, along with stalls selling art and crafts, gifts, cakes and jewellery, as well as Demelza’s new range of Christmas cards for 2016.
Chief Executive Ryan Campbell said: “It is a highlight of our year to welcome members of the public to Demelza and show them how their donations have enabled us to make such a difference to so many young people and their families.”
Among guests were octogenarian John Miles from Canterbury who has raised almost £40,000 in the past 15 years for Demelza and Kaitlyn Gunner from Sittingbourne who had 12 inches chopped off her long locks, raising £500 for the charity.
Kaitlyn donated her hair to the Little Princess Trust, to be made into wigs for children, but gave the sponsorship to Demelza – a charity she has supported previously, by running 5K, making loom bands for sale and donating her toys to the hospices in Sittingbourne and Eltham.
Kaitlyn said: “I love my long hair and all the pretty hairstyles I can have but wanted to donate my hair so that other girls and boys can have the hairstyle they want.”
View the gallery here
We were delighted to show representatives from Bellway Homes around Demelza Kent to mark a new partnership.
The Kent-based company has made an initial donation of £300 and was invited to look around the Sittingbourne hospice to see first hand what difference their support will make.
Claire Ellis-Waghorn, Acting Director of Voluntary Income, met with Bellway representatives to discuss the services provided at Demelza Kent and described the various roles the hospice plays in many families’ lives across the South Coast.
“Regardless of whether we have children staying with us for an extended period of time or just visiting for the day, it is important that Demelza feels like a home from home for children and their families.” Claire explained. “The whole site, from its location through to the design of each room and the importance we place on children customising their own spaces, has been carefully considered. Our sponsorships allow us to create these wonderful environments where children can relax and enjoy the normalities of family life, with the benefits of having trained carers on hand and interiors adapted for necessary medical equipment.”
Julie Heather, Technical and Commercial Secretary for Bellway Kent said: “We were honoured by Claire’s invitation to better understand the services Demelza provides, and were truly touched by the incredible work everyone involved does here.
“We are sure our donation will be put towards furthering their fantastic facilities, and hope this is the beginning of a long and supportive relationship.
More than two dozen intrepid cyclists from Knauf UK rode from their factory near Sittingbourne to their depot in Immingham to raise funds for Demelza.
Paul Chandler and 24 of his colleagues set off from Iwade in Kent on September 9 and rode for four days across varied terrain – and through some wild fluctuations in weather – before arriving at their destination, saddle-sore and weary on September 12 – a huge challenge covering more than two hundred miles.
But their efforts were rewarded with family, friends and colleagues raising almost £4,000 for the children’s charity – almost four times their initial target of £1,000.
Paul said: “There are many incredible causes we considered supporting with our Sitingbourne-to-Immingham charity bike ride, but Knauf selected Demelza as we appreciate the important work being done to positively affect people’s lives.”
Demelza’s Rachel Walker presented the team with a bumper hamper of chocolate goodies to mark their return to Kent and to thank them for the marathon feat.
She said: “This was a great effort by the team at Knauf and we are very grateful for the donation which will help our work with all those families who have children with life-limiting illness that we support.”
We were delighted to visit the Morrisons store in Sittingbourne to receive a cheque from the Morrisons Foundation for £21,738.
The money will be used to buy a state-of-the-art camera system for our South East London hospice in Eltham, similar to the one we already have at Demelza Kent.
The camera system is designed to give parents peace of mind that their children are being monitored and cared for at all times.
While not a replacement for personal contact, the systems do mean that staff can get on with other duties in between scheduled visits, knowing that the children are being monitored at all times.
The cameras also allow spot checks to be made on children without disturbing them if asleep or resting and are sound sensitive, so if a child calls out or has a vocal seizure the camera system will alert staff in the office.
The cameras can be turned off for privacy when changing a child, or if the family is present. Older children can decide if they wish to have the camera on or off.
Our flagship charity ball, held in the magnificent surroundings of Kensington Palace raised a fantastic £50,000!
More than 200 guests enjoyed a champagne reception on the terrace of The Orangery at the Palace - home to many past and present members of the British Royal Family - before dining on a delicious three-course meal.
Demelza’s Chairman Sarah Phillips welcomed guests to the flower-laden Orangery and gave an update on our work.
Major Donor Manager Sarah Kemsley said: “Our guests really appreciated the surroundings for this year’s ball. For many, it was the first time they had been to Kensington Palace.”
Auction items included an overnight stay in the officers’ mess, followed by a day training with the Royal Marines at their Commando Training Centre near Exmouth, and a stunning Stevenson Brothers’ rocking horse signed by Joanna Lumley, along with mementoes from her recent Ab Fab film.
View the gallery here
Demelza has been shortlisted for an award to transform a drab piece of green space into a sensory garden.
The charity applied for funding through the Tesco Bags of Help awards and was shortlisted, guaranteeing an £8,000 grant.
But Demelza could potentially win even more as three charities are up against the public vote to win a bigger grant, either £10,000 or £12,000. Shoppers to the three Tesco stores in Sittingbourne and the superstore in Faversham can vote for their favourite charity from 31 October to 13 November.
The one with the biggest number of votes will be awarded £12,000, the second £10,000 and the third £8,000.
The green area which is part of the six acre site at Demelza Kent in Sittingbourne is currently unused as it is not fully wheelchair friendly and is in need of a bit of TLC.
With an £8,000 grant it will be transformed into a sensory garden with a pond, two bridges, themed plants and decorations to create a Chinese water garden. A pagoda already on site will be refurbished and a burner added with incense, linking to the sensory theme. The pond will link to an enchanted forest area where there will be a woodland house, swamp area, toadstools, sensory lighting as well as some seating areas.
If Demelza is successful in getting the £10,000 grant an entrance and exit arch will be added as well as additional sensory equipment, a bamboo water run, a large gong and a wider variety of grasses which the children will be able to touch, all of which will enhance the multi- sensory environment Demelza is creating.
A £12,000 grant would see Demelza putting up a partition around the new sensory garden to help the children using the area feel more part of the surroundings, disguising neighbouring storage sheds and allotments. Larger plants could be purchased and the gardens used for music and art therapy. A range of additional musical instruments could also be bought.
Debbie McSwiney, Care Services Lead – Kent said: “Having a new sensory garden would bring that end of the garden to life and make it so much more exciting and interesting for the children.”
A LIFE on the open road beckons for a retired Maidstone postie who scooped £25,000 in Demelza's Superdraw.
But 57-year old David Stuart nearly missed out on the money after forgetting to tell us that he had moved house!
When Head of Lottery and Gaming Paul Booth went to Mr Stuart’s house to present the £25,000 cheque to him, he discovered he had moved away last August. A six week search ensued before Paul finally tracked him down to Littlestone-on-Sea – 40 miles away on Romney Marsh.
Paul said: “I spoke to the neighbours but they didn’t have a forwarding address. I discovered he had worked for the Post Office, so we tried contacting them, but to no avail."
Mr Stuart pays his lottery membership by direct debit and it was the bank which finally got in touch.
The Superdraw win means Mr Stuart is now able to indulge his new big love for travel. He has spent his winnings on a shiny new four-berth camper van so he and his partner Maria can tour around Britain and Europe!
The former postman took early retirement after being seriously injured in a motorcycle accident in November 2010. He spent several weeks in hospital and signed up to the Lotto and Superdraw four years ago at our stand in Maidstone Hospital.
He said: “I have always felt passionately about the work Demelza does with children and decided my monthly contributions would go some way to help. I never really expected to win anything!"
Mr Stuart’s mother Myrtle, who still lives in Maidstone, has been a member of the Demelza lottery for many years. The family now plan to spread the word about Demelza’s Lotto when out and about in the van. He said: “I’m so thrilled by the win, I want to give something back.”
African drumming, Am Dram and rock were part of a day-long feast of music and movement for our TIZ group.
Entertainers who gave of their time and talents included singer-songwriter Chantal Olivia from Canterbury, Simon Lee on African drums, the Falconwood Rock Choir and Bromley Players. There was also a special sensory music session from TIME - Therapy in Music Experience - and a magician, all taking place at our SEL hospice.
Organiser Melissa Day said: “Here at Demelza it’s all about life – and making the most of it.
“All our children love to take part in music activities but this was something geared towards our Transformers group – a chance for them to get together and take part in a great fun day with their pals!"
Local people have pulled out all the stops to support the opening of our new charity shop in Hythe.
‘Designer,’ ‘bespoke’ and ‘beautiful’ are just some of the adjectives being used to describe the pre-loved items on offer at the new shop, just a stone’s throw from its previous premises in the High Street.
Demelza has successfully operated a charity shop in the town for 15 years, as well as a separate, hugely-popular bookstore, a few doors away. But the move to bigger and better new premises – at 138 High Street – means we will have more space, more scope – and more flexibility.
The double-fronted Georgian shop has been newly-fitted out to accommodate regular donations of clothes and household items but upstairs, two beautiful spacious rooms mean we will be able to run special ‘pop up’ features – such as a Christmas shop, wedding shop, carnival shop and vintage shop
Rachel Stead, Shop Operations Manager, said: “We are hugely excited by the move to these lovely new premises and the potential they have to offer. Locals have been beating down the doors while we have been getting ready – not just giving us some fantastically generous donations, but also wanting to buy.”
Elke, a regular visitor to Demelza, was invited along to cut the ribbon on Thursday September 1 and officially declare the new shop open, after which a few glasses of bubbly were raised to toast the continued success of Hythe’s Demelza shop.
Shop manager Lynn Madigan, who has worked for Demelza for more than 13 years, will continue to manage the new shop with her faithful team of trusty volunteers, who look forward to welcoming their regular customers – along with some new ones. The old shop will continue to open three days a week – Friday, Saturday and Monday from 10am-4pm - until November 5 as a clearance store, with lots of items at bargain prices.
You know those NICE biscuits – the plainish ones somewhere between rich tea and malted milk on the boring spectrum? When I was about eight I accidently called them nice biscuits and my nanna explained that they are pronounced neece, which is French. This is because if you walked into a shop and asked the shopkeeper for nice biscuits he’d bring you every biscuit in the shop before you could stop him which would be a big inconvenience for all concerned. It was an important lesson which I’ve always remembered.
At about the same time though, shops changed overnight from being places where you asked a man in brown overalls for what you wanted, “May I have a Fray Bentos pie, two pounds of potatoes, a quarter of Army and Navy sweets, half a pound of faggots and some neece biscuits please?”, to places where you got to pick stuff off shelves for yourself; so I never actually got to use that lesson.
Anyway, you know that NICE Guidance on End of Life Care for Children, Infants and Young People? A draft version of it has just been out for consultation and we’re expecting a final version in December this year. NICE stands for the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (I know it doesn’t really, because that would be NIHCE, but how that came about is a very dull story indeed). It’s the quasi-governmental body which produces guidance on how the NHS and everyone else should deliver health services.
We’ve never had guidance before on how to deliver any aspect of palliative care for children and young people. This is a problem – not necessarily because we might be doing it wrong, or even because what care you get might depend on where you live. It’s a problem because without properly put together guidance, care might not be as connected as it should be to the evidence base. The process of producing guidance, in short, is to look at what works best, and say that what works best is what should be done.
The draft version of the guidance, which covers hospital and community NHS care as well as hospice care, states amongst other things that access to emotional and psychological support should be available for all; that bereavement support should be offered to all; and that everyone should be supported to have choice about place of death, including at home. This is far more than many children, young people and families get at present. It would be extraordinary and marvellous, and the impact would be transformational. It would require better and more joined together systems. And it would require a lot more money.
I don’t know if that last point might be a problem. But either way, we might either be getting much more and better support for children and young people with life-limiting conditions and their families; or at least we might have verification of the evidence-base so that we can campaign better for it.
As the dark nights start to draw in, why not add a splash of colour to your life by planning something bright and colourful - and ‘Go Dotty’ for Demelza?
Our staff are going dotty, our shops are going dotty - so why don't you join us by wearing dots and raising lots?
#TeamDemelza want to see everyone literally ‘Go Dotty’ during the month of September - it can be something as simple as wearing a spotty tie, socks or a scarf and making a donation to Demelza.
Or you could really push the boat out and organise a Dotty tea party, cake sale, guess the number of sweets in a dotty jar – or sign up for one of Demelza’s many fabulous fundraising events!
We have dotty collecting tins, buckets and envelopes to make it easy for your office, friends or family to collect loose change - just make sure you have fun fundraising!
Contact the fundraising team on 01795 845266 if you need more ideas!
IF you’re feeling sporty and inspired following a summer of Olympic activity, Demelza is giving you the chance to get a slice of the action.
#TeamDemelza has secured a number of charity places in this year’s London to Brighton Cycle Ride and is now looking for keen cyclists to saddle up and get on their bikes for the 54-mile challenge.
More than 3,000 people are expected to take part in this year’s ride, which takes place on Sunday September 11. Starting out from Clapham Common, it’s a chance for cyclists to hit the open road and blaze a trail through the Surrey countryside to the seaside in East Sussex!
Last year’s riders raised almost £5,000 for Demelza and events co-ordinator Emma Cox is hoping to top that target this time around.
She said: “We are so grateful the 38 people who chose to take part in the ride last year, many of whom have signed up again. However, we hope to welcome some new faces on board! Our riders come from all walks of life and have different reasons for taking on the challenge.”
Emma said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to spread awareness through the area where we provide care.”
Registration is £40 and entrants need to pledge to raise at least £100 in sponsorship. All participants will receive a free Demelza T-shirt.
Details can be found at: https://www.demelza.org.uk/support-us/challenges-and-events/detail/london-to-brighton-cycle.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Right Reverend Justin Welby, was full of praise for the love and care shown by Demelza when he visited our Kent Hospice at Sittingbourne.
The Archbishop, who is a Patron of the charity, toured the Hospice along with his wife, Mrs Caroline Welby, on what proved to be one of the hottest days of the year. The couple were shown around by eight-year old Malachi, who impressed the Archbishop no end with his knowledge of the Hospice and its facilities - and his adeptness at getting around, despite being blind.
The Archbishop took tea in our magnificent gardens, cared for largely by volunteers, where he met some of our families, volunteers and trustees, while listening to some of our children enjoying music therapy. He also explored our soft play centre and sensory room!
The Archbishop, who was welcomed by Chief Executive Ryan Campbell, chair of the Board of Trustees Sarah Phillips and Derek Phillips, our founder President, said: "This place is a tardis! It isn’t large on the outside but inside there is a whole country of wonderful care and love. I have been blown away by it.”
He was later presented with a paper dove, made by children in their art therapy, which bore all of their thumbprints.
We were also pleased to welcome Reverends Mike and Liz Resch, from Holy Trinity Church, Sittingbourne, among our other many supporters.
Check out our image gallery for more pictures from the visit.
Internet prankster Lee Marshall – also known as Discoboy – has released a charity single to raise funds for the vital work of Demelza.
Lee, from Kent, who has a following of more than 185,000 fans on Facebook, has released a You Tube video to coincide with the release of his dance hit single ‘The Monkey Move’ – a dance move and song for children.
Lee, who created the Monkey Move in 2015, hopes the single will be an internet sensation and raise loads of money for Demelza, says: “There has not been a single like this since the Cha Cha Slide and Macarena.
“The song features a simple but entertaining dance move that young children will love.”
The social media celebrity is best known for springing street pranks on unsuspecting members of the public but said: “This is something for the kids and done in order to help raise money for the seriously ill children in Demelza’s care.”
Lee and his team have already been spotted on the streets of Maidstone and Canterbury rehearsing the catchy dance routine.
He is hoping to get radio and TV support for the single and he hopes the video will go viral.
All proceeds will go to Demelza.
The single is now on sale from all digital stores including iTUNES, Amazon MP3, Spotify and Apple Music.
Fifteen families from across South East London enjoyed fun in the sun at Demelza's annual fun day in Eltham.
Children who receive care from the hospice, along with their parents and brothers and sisters, had the chance to get up close and personal with TV favourites Peppa Pig and Bob the Builder, as well as officers from London Fire Brigade and the Metropolitan Police, plus the region’s Search and Rescue dogs.
A whole host of events was organised by the charity’s staff and volunteers for the 85 visitors, including the ever-popular bouncy castle, hook-a-duck, a tombola, raffle and facepainting.
Giggle doctor Dr Geehee from Theodora Children’s Charity also provided entertainment at the event on Saturday (13 August).
Ann Fagg, Care Services Lead at SEL said: “It’s a chance for families who use our services to get together and enjoy the kind of fun and games other people might take for granted.”