Plans for new Children’s Hospice Service unveiled at Glittering Gala Dinner

Categories: Care and Fundraising.

More than 200 guests enjoyed a Glittering Gala Dinner hosted by former England cricket captain Chris Cowdrey which raised in excess of £70,000 to support the launch of Hospice in the Weald’s new service for children.

Held in the beautiful grounds of Tonbridge School, the event, sponsored by Beau Property and NFU Mutual (Flimwell Agency), welcomed guests with a drinks reception, dinner by Food Glorious Food, and a live auction with donated prizes including golf at Royal St George’s Golf Club and four tickets for La Bohème at Glyndebourne.

A Prix De L’Arc de Triomphe weekend for two in Paris and a fine dining dinner party at home for eight catered by a private chef were among popular luxury donated prize lots in the evening’s silent auction, before guests danced the night away to music from the Hot Shoes Band.

The Hospice has provided free care for adults with a terminal illness, and their loved ones, in West Kent and northern East Sussex for more than 40 years. The Gala Dinner was held to celebrate the Hospice extending this to develop a new service for children with life limiting conditions and their families, which will be known as’ Hospice in the Weald for Children’.

Hospice Chief Executive Nick Farthing told guests how staff have been working with local families and organisations to ensure the new service can best meet their needs:

  • Families will be offered home visits, to reduce strain on them and enable children to stay in the comfort of their own home.
  • Counselling support for the whole family will be provided to help families cope with the emotional impact of diagnosis on daily life.
  • Guests also heard about plans for a new Children’s Centre, being created in the existing Pembury building, where children can safely play, enjoy sensory activities and have fun.

A range of specialist equipment is needed to provide support and comfort to children and their families at all stages of their care. During the auction, many guests bid to purchase ‘cuddle cots’ or cold mats.* These are devices used to manage a child’s body temperature after a child has died, enabling families to spend more precious moments together in the privacy of their own homes.

During the evening, Nick introduced a video featuring the story of Philippa, who poignantly told of the difference such Hospice care made for her son Daniel and her family. Philippa said: “Daniel was such a cheeky chappie, everybody loved him. His diagnosis, at just eight months, was a bombshell as there was no history of Duchene muscular dystrophy in our family. We were just not prepared at all. Life suddenly went in a completely different direction.

“Families need these services to pick up the gaps in the system. They need the fully trained staff, their day to day is really hard. They need respite both for the child to have a treat and be looked after, and for themselves to have some breathing space to cope. I’d encourage everyone to get involved and support this.”

Reflecting on the evening, Nick said: “The Gala Dinner was a wonderful opportunity to share our exciting plans to provide hospice care for children, and we are delighted by the generosity shown to raise funds. Special thanks to our auction donors and sponsors Beau Property and NFU Mutual.

“With the number of children needing Hospice care set to grow significantly over the next few years, and families struggling to access support, there is a real and urgent need for this new service.

“Children’s Hospice in the Weald aims to lighten the load for families by providing free care for children and young people – and their families – and we can only do that with the continued help of our fantastic supporters.”

Find out more about Hospice in the Weald for Children at


Background: Children’s Hospice at Home

We are creating a free service for local families offering home visits, emotional support and a new Children’s Centre to play, get creative and receive care.

At present, many families in Tunbridge Wells and the surrounding areas need to travel a significant distance to access day activities in Kent and East Sussex. Feedback from families shows that this journey time prevents them from accessing play or sensory activities, family, or sibling groups. Work is about to start at our Hospice in Pembury to create a self-contained Children’s Centre within the existing building, complete with activity room, sensory room and accessible bathroom. The space overlooks our Hospice gardens, giving children the chance to embrace nature and play in a peaceful environment.

Specialist equipment to offer comfort

*Cold mats, or ‘cuddle cots’ are used by families after a child has died, so they can spend more time together at an unimaginably difficult time. They offer a discreet way for families to manage a child’s temperature, so they can be with their child and process their loss in the privacy of their own home. Many take this opportunity to complete memory making activities such as taking fingerprints.

Gala Dinner photos:

  • Chief Executive Nick Farthing with Professor Julia Downing (l) and Hospice Trustee Jo Ford (r)
  • Former England cricket captain and Hospice Patron Chris Cowdrey was MC for the evening
  • Tor Edwards, Hospice Director of Communications and Development (centre) with Tracy Smith, Head of Children’s Service (l) and Fiona Ashmore, Lead Children’s Nurse (r)

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