The night we all cried (October meeting review)

Well it’s not often that we reduce everyone at our meeting to tears, but our October meeting was, to put it mildly, an emotional one.

Several months ago TW MIBs unanimously agreed that we would like to support Kent-based charity ChYps (“Children’s and Young Person’s Services”), which provides hospice, palliative and respite care to terminally ill children and teenagers in Kent.

The care ChYps provides is unique in that it is provided within the child’s own home, helping the whole family stay together as much as possible.  ChYps has been doing just this in north Kent for quite some time, but earlier this year was awarded the “contract” to provide these services to families in Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge and Sevenoaks too.   There are currently 200 terminally ill children in our area which need support from ChYps, but without sufficient funding, they are unable to help them.

As we’re all mums from the same area, this charity obviously struck a cord immediately.

Louise Wright, ChYps senior corporate fundraiser has been coming along to our meetings to get to know our members for several months now, but we felt that it was a good time for ChYps to give us an insight into exactly what they do, and work out how we can help them.  We were joined on the evening by Louise, Tessa, ChYps PR Officer, and Tony, who lost his 18 month old son to cancer just 3 months ago, and whose family has been supported by ChYps throughout.

Being a mum of two beautiful, healthy children, many of the things Louise has told me about ChYps work over the months I’ve got to know her have really played on my mind – like the local family that have lost not one, but TWO children to terminal illness.  At the risk of sounding flippant, I cry at Bambi, so I went armed with my packet tissues knowing that what we would hear was very likely to be upsetting.  And it was.  There’s simply no way that the protracted suffering and death of a child can ever be anything else.

Tony, the father who talked to us about his family’s experience, was remarkable in his self-control, particularly as it was the first time he’d spoken publicly about what had happened.  It was both heartbreaking and extremely eye-opening as to both the level of care his son had needed, and also the practical and emotional impact that this has had on them as a family.

Tony brought some photos of his son with him, and the most important thing for him was that they actually had family photos, and that they were at home and in the garden, together, and not separated from one another in hospital at the most incomprehensibly difficult time, particularly as they had another son who also needed love and support.  The help that they received from ChYps made an incalculable difference to them, and continues to do so as his other son of 6 now benefits from guided reading and music therapy to help him understand and grieve for his brother.  Having learnt to provide hands-on care for her son during his illness, Tony’s wife has also since gone on to help ChYps provide care to other families.  The day after our meeting would have been their little boy’s 2nd birthday.

After hearing from ChYps and Tony, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room – it was intensely emotional and upsetting.

After a break to get a stiff drink, blow noses and “recover our composure”, it was time to find out how we, as individuals, as businesses, and as members of TW Mums in Business, could help.

ChYps really needs our help on two levels:

1.  to raise their profile locally

2.  to help them raise funds, without which they cannot help the 200 children and families in our area.

We discussed a number of things we could do and the room was very quickly full of ideas.  At the end of the meeting everyone was given the opportunity to sign up as a “ChYps Champion” and asked for suggestions of any specific ways in which they might be able help.

We’ve since collected and review these sign-up forms and the offers of help are amazingly generous – from imaginative fundraising and PR activities, to offers to buy a small library books to help siblings understand what’s happened, dog therapy for the children, to haircuts and reflexology for their exhausted parents, to materials for the memory boxes that are given to families when a child dies.  We’re currently working with ChYps to explore these further and will be sharing lots more information over the coming months.

A final thought…

200 local children are terminally ill and they and their families need ChYps help.  Without £248,000 ChYps won’t be able to help them.  This could so easily be any of our children.  Please do whatever you can.  If you’d like to find out how you can help, please contact me, ChYps, or like them on Facebook.