Two Bexhill families whose children were cared for by Chestnut Tree have raised an amazing £17,500 for the charity.
In October they hosted a Ball in memory of their children, Darcey and Jacob, with 285 guests attending on the night. Held at Bannatynes Spa hotel in Battle, the event was a glamourous evening of entertainment, including music from local band The Chandeliers and table magic from Alexander James Magic.
Both families, who had been friends for years before having children, have praised the care they received last year from Chestnut Tree, describing the children’s hospice as ‘invaluable’ and a ‘second home’.
Josie Harrington and Chris Skiggs’s daughter, Darcey, was born in June 2015 and it became clear very quickly that she was unwell. The couple were told that she had brain damage, but nobody knew the extent of the damage or her prognosis. When Darcey took a turn for the worse at the beginning of September 2015 the family were referred to Chestnut Tree House, where they spent three days before Darcey sadly passed away. She was just 12 weeks old.
“When we arrived at Chestnut Tree house, I just cried with relief,” says mum Josie. “We had been in hospital for a week before then and were finding it really tough. We got to Chestnut Tree House and were greeted by a nurse and a plate of sandwiches. It was like all the stress and worry was gone and we could just spend time with our daughter and enjoy her last few days.”
“We did so much during that time. The whole family stayed at the house – our parents, brothers and sisters. We went swimming, used the sensory room, I celebrated my birthday there with cards and a cake and the nurses helped us do footprints with Darcey.”
Lauren and Dave Nutt’s son, Jacob, passed away just three days after Darcey. Mum Lauren tells us, “We had been away for the weekend as a family, but had been in constant contact with Chestnut Tree who suggested we head straight to them, which we did, but Jacob, who was just under 6 months old, passed away as we arrived.”
The family had been referred to Chestnut Tree three months previously when Jacob was diagnosed with a progressive heart condition. “Our experience was quite different to Josie and Chris’s in that we had Chestnut’s support for three months before losing Jacob,” says Lauren. “We had a community nurse visit us in hospital initially, and at home, and we also visited the house on a couple of occasions, which our eldest son absolutely loved.”
Both families chose to make use of Chestnut Tree House’s bereavement suite, staying at the house as a family until the funerals, giving them a chance to say goodbye in the ways that they wanted. “It gave us time to reflect,” says Josie. “It also took all of the stress away. We didn’t have to think about any of the day to day things like cooking or cleaning, we could just grieve in our own time and way.” Lauren adds, “It gave us a chance to go through a terrible time with people who understood. And, in our case, to do it with close friends who knew exactly what we were going through.”
The ball was inspired by the families’ desire to do something in memory of both children, and also to raise vital funds for the hospice. “It started off as a small idea and just grew and grew,” says Josie. “We liked the idea of a glamourous ball, of giving everyone the chance to really get dressed up and have a really great night, and it was better than we ever imagined. Everyone had a great night, and we smashed out fundraising target.”
Lauren explains, “It costs £6,850 every day to provide all of Chestnut Tree’s care, and we really wanted to be able to pay for a day in memory of each of the children. We are so happy that the money raised from the ball will pay for all of the care at Chestnut Tree on what would be have been Darcey and Jacob’s second birthdays, next year.”
“There are lots of people we need to thank for their help in making this happen. MC Glass, Sussex Trade Centres, Total Project Management and JK Drains sponsored the event and Burgess & Co sponsored a table, whilst Bows Hire, Chocolate Balloons, Alexander James and Best of Hastings all donated their services on the evening. There were also dozens more companies who donated prizes, and of course we had nearly 300 paying guests who all contributed to the total.”
When asked why Chestnut Tree is such an important charity, both mums described it as ‘everything’ to them. “I feel so grateful and lucky to have the hospice,” says Lauren. “We still visit regularly and are always welcomed. Both Jacob and Darcey have special stones in the memory garden and we like to go there and sit and remember.” Josie simply says, “I just don’t know how I would have gotten through it and be where I am today without Chestnut Tree.”
Anybody wishing to make a donation in memory of Jacob and Darcey can do so by visiting www.chestnut-tree-house.org.uk/donate. If their story has inspired you to hold your own fundraising event then you can find out more at www.chestnut-tree-house.org.uk/handsup or you can get in touch with the team at Chestnut Tree by calling 01323 725095 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.