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WHILE the rest of us tuck into Christmas feasts with our families, unwrapping presents in our homes decorated for the season, some families face the bleak prospect of spending the holidays surrounded by the pain, medicines and four white walls of a children’s oncology ward.
One mum from Staverton near Trowbridge has drawn on her own family’s experience and set up ‘Sunshine Sacks’, a new initiative aiming to provide the families of children with cancer, spending this Christmas in hospitals across the South West, with essential items and fun gifts to help spread some much-needed love and festive cheer.
Gabby Fisher, a mum of two, knows only too well how gloomy Christmas can be for a family supporting one of their children through cancer treatment. Her young daughter Matilda was diagnosed in December 2016 with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia and the whole family, including baby Marley, spent Christmas on an oncology and haematology ward at the Bristol Royal Hospital for Children.
A year on, four-year-old Matilda is in the final maintenance stage of her treatment, which continues until 2019, and Gabby’s thoughts have turned to others facing a similar situation. With the help of fellow Wiltshire mum Rachel Corbett from Devizes, whose five-year-old daughter Suki has undergone cancer treatment this year alongside Matilda, Gabby’s idea for ‘Sunshine Sacks’ has become a reality.
The Sunshine Sacks concept is simple. Those donating are asked to provide a festive gift bag containing a minimum of the following: Four ‘eat me’ items e.g. mince pies, Christmas pudding, panettone, chocolates, nibbles. Two ‘drink me’ items e.g. speciality tea or coffee, soft drinks, cordial. Two ‘entertain me’ items e.g. compact family game, Christmas DVD, Christmas decorations.
All items should be new, sealed, within any ‘use by’ date and individually packed where possible. Items should be unisex and suitable for the whole family, and should not include any items requiring fridge/freezer storage or any alcoholic drinks. Completed bags can be delivered to Belle of the Ball Bridals, on the Hight Street in Melksham.
From here, the festive Sunshine Sacks will be distributed by Gabby and a team of volunteers to the families of children undergoing treatment on wards at the Royal United Hospital Bath and the Bristol Royal Hospital for Children. If the team’s target is exceeded, additional distributions will be made to young cancer patients and their families in Salisbury and at the Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton.
Gabby says, “To start with I simply posted the idea on my blog, hoping for some feedback. To say that I have been overwhelmed by the response would be an understatement! I have received so many offers of support and have been genuinely touched by the generosity of friends, family members and a whole host of complete strangers. Our initial target was 50 bags, which I thought might be ambitious, but we’ve already been promised far more than that, and hope that this Christmas campaign will just be the start for Sunshine Sacks.”
For more information visit: www.facebook.com/ sunshinesacks