The Carlisle United management staff and members of the first team were delighted to be able to attend the official opening of the new sensory and snug rooms at Jigsaw Hospice - Cumbria’s Children’s Hospice - on Monday evening as officials from all walks of life congregated to watch Mayoress Trish Vasey cut the ribbon for the fantastic new facilities.
Manager Keith Curle was joined by first team staff members Neil Dalton, Lee Dykes, Simon Tracey and Colin West, and by players Luke Joyce, Jason Kennedy, Gary Liddle and John O’Sullivan on a guided tour of the Hospice, magnificently hosted by Complex Care Lead Nurse Helen Farren.
Andrew Maddison, Marketing Officer with Eden Valley Hospice, said: “It’s fantastic for us that Carlisle United have given us some of their time to come along to our official opening. A lot of time and effort has gone into the refurbishment work and we’re all extremely proud of it.
“If we’re being honest, we’d known for a while that our sensory room wasn’t quite up to scratch and we’re pleased that we’ve now been able to put that right.
“It all started when we applied to the AVIVA Community Fund last year. We stated our case and it then went to a public vote for the chance to receive a £25,000 grant to help us to revamp these important facilities. Our case was a strong one, and with a lot of activity on social media and through the local media we were able to get people to vote in favour of our project.
“It really captured the imagination and we got down to the final five, which then led to the elation of finding out that we’d been successful. From there the staff and children put their heads together and we came up with what we really wanted from a snug (for teenagers and young adults) and from a sensory room (for patients of all ages). It’s hard to put into words what it means to us to now have them in place and ready for use.”
Another key part of the refurbishment was the fitting of new carpets and flooring throughout the snug, reception and sensory areas, and that’s where local firm D Marks Carpets stepped in.
Hospice Fundraising Manager Katrina Sander explained: “Donald has been unbelievable. He popped along to see us a number of months ago and he’s been a real driving force ever since. We have some amazing partnerships with local companies and people, but Donald took our breath away when he agreed to do the required work free of charge. We simply can’t thank him enough.”
“I was invited to come and see the staff and take a look at Jigsaw six months ago by James Boyle, who volunteers here at the Hospice,” Donald told us. “I have to say I fell in the love with the place, the people who work here and the children who come here.
“During one of our conversations they mentioned that they needed some flooring done so we came in and did the work on the central rooms and on the newly refurbished areas, all of which have been reopened today.
“From there we’ll be finishing off the flooring in the reception area over the course of the next couple of weeks. I’ve been able to talk to other tradespeople in the area about supplying other services and equipment that’s needed here and the response has been superb.”
“I have to say that Carlisle United have been a credit to the community through all of this,” he continued. “I brought a young lad called Patrick, who is a patient here at the Hospice, to the Mansfield game a few weeks ago. He thought he was just going to watch the match but he ended up meeting the players and seeing behind the scenes.
“Everybody was fantastic with him, from the moment he got there to the moment he left, and his parents are so grateful to the club for the memories that young boy took away from the day.
“What I’ve found is that all the children are like that. They’re so full of smiles and positivity and they make their Hospice their home, and it becomes a wonderful, wonderful place. That’s why I want to be involved, and I hope others feel they can get involved as well.”
Speaking on behalf of the players, midfielder John O’Sullivan said: “I have to be honest and say that it’s hard to think about the reason why this facility is here, but that also makes you appreciate even more the work these fantastic people do.
“I think you would naturally expect there to be a sad feeling but the first thing you notice is how positive and upbeat everyone is from the moment you walk through the door. They took us on a tour and the explanations behind what some of the rooms are for made us all feel really emotional.
“We’re carrying on our daily lives while families are having to deal with finding out that the people they love most in this world are suffering with life limiting illnesses at such a young age. That’s bound to make you stop and think about how fortunate you are, but it also makes you think about how you can help those who are going through this.
“As a club, if all we do is raise awareness of the work that’s being done here, then that in itself will be a good thing. We’ve been talking about doing more than that, if we can, because listening to the staff as they explain how the children deal with their illnesses is inspirational in itself.”
For more information on Jigsaw Hospice, visit http://www.jigsawhospice.org/