Volunteer Lesley shares why Demelza is so important to her, and why she has spent 28 years helping us raise funds for our services.

“I think what’s kept me volunteering for Demelza for 28 years is the opportunities that I wouldn’t have had anywhere else. I was there when Demelza Kent was first opened and met the Countess Mountbatten of Burma; I accompanied my brother when he cycled from Sittingbourne to Amsterdam to raise money for Demelza (although I rode pillion on my husband’s motorbike!); and I got to attend the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Celebration on the Mall. These were all once-in-a-lifetime experiences, and I got to enjoy them while supporting a charity that means a great deal to me.”

From small beginnings

Lesley joined Demelza as a fundraising volunteer 28 years ago – before we had even broken ground on our first hospice!

“I had picked up a leaflet at the Dickens Festival in Rochester, where Demelza had a stand – they were trying to raise money at that time to buy the land for Demelza Kent. I went home with that leaflet and it sat on my counter for weeks!”

Recognising a need

Lesley didn’t come back to that leaflet until, a short while later during a shift on the children’s ward at the Queen Mary’s Hospital, she met a young patient who was receiving end of life care.

“This was a little girl who could die any day, but she could only have one parent staying with her due to limited space. We used to hide the other parent during the night sister’s rounds then sneak them back into the room! Clearly acute wards just weren’t set up for end of life care, and we needed something local that provided a better service for these families – the nearest children’s hospice back then was Oxford or Cambridge. I went home and spotted the Demelza leaflet on my counter, gave Jennifer Phillips a call to see if they could come and give a talk to the Parents Association at my son’s school, and the rest is history.”

From opening the doors to 25 years on

“The rest”, as Lesley so humbly puts it, is 28 years of incredible fundraising support. Several parents including Lesley signed up to volunteer after that first talk, and their efforts – “mainly bucket-shaking and handing out leaflets, but some sponsored walks and talks to schools as well” – were vital in raising funds to build Demelza’s first hospice. Lesley was there at the groundbreaking ceremony when funds were raised to buy the land, and again when the hospice opened its doors for the first time.

As time has gone on Lesley has volunteered across the full spectrum of Demelza fundraising, and is now reflecting on how things have changed. “Everything’s much bigger. It means more children get referred and get support, which is the main thing – Demelza is amazing at what they do, and the fact more families

can access them now is wonderful. As I’ve mentioned, the nearest children’s hospice when they were starting out was 60 miles away! Now Demelza covers such a big area, and those families don’t have to worry about hiding from the night sister or loading their severely disabled child onto a train to Oxford. It’s much better.”

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