Keech Hospice Care’s new children’s unit had a star-studded inauguration on Thursday (March 26) with McBusted drummer Harry Judd doing the honours.
Fashionably dressed in khaki T-shirt, torn jeans and suede boots, he encouraged everyone to join him in counting down from three to one before cutting the blue ribbon and declaring the extension open.
The Strictly Come Dancing winner and his violinist wife Izzy Johnston delighted staff, little patients and their families by touring the facilities, taking time to listen to their stories and posing for pictures.
The new £900,000 refurbishment boasts a state-of-the-art sensory unit and teenage room in addition to other amenities and was funded partially by the Department of Health, topped up with grants from a number of charitable organisations, including the Amateurs Trust.
Chief exceutive Mike Keel said the original children’s hospice was opened by the Princess Royal in 2000: “Now, 15 years later, our services are even more vital.
“More and more children want to receive care as day patients.
“Families want to be able to leave their children for respite care, they need help with managing symptoms and support for siblings, in addition to having fun while they’re here.”
He said the hospice was also keen to raise awareness among medical professionals, many of whom didn’t seem to know what palliative care was.
The Judds were introduced to the hospice by their friends Tiggy and Matthew Marchant, whose three-year-old son Oliver is a patient. He was diagnosed with neuroblastoma – cancer of the nervous system – in 2013.
Izzy said: “We were keen to know what we could do to help and every time we’ve come here we’ve been amazed by the friendly environment and how special it is.”
Harry added: “It’s deeply touching and moving to see how the nurses, doctors and carers dedicate their lives to helping others. If my being here helps in just a small way, I’m happy to come whenever possible.”
> Keech Hospice Care serves Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Milton Keynes. Visit www.keech.org.uk/