A children’s charity has praised its supporters for continuing to fundraise for the cause throughout the pandemic.

The Children's Hospice South West care team are now visiting families in their own homes as a result of the pandemic. Picture: CHSWThe Children's Hospice South West care team are now visiting families in their own homes as a result of the pandemic. Picture: CHSW

Children’s Hospice South West (CHSW) has been caring for families shielding vulnerable children from Covid-19.

People supported by the charity are used to long periods of illness preventing daily activities, but CHSW says lockdown brought many new and ‘terrifying’ challenges to families – with many seeing their care packages fall away and their wider support networks disappear in the wake of the pandemic.

CHSW, which looks after nearly 200 families at its Little Bridge House children’s hospice in Fremington, North Devon, has had to adapt its care model to continue providing the lifeline support it has offered since 1995.

Because of the vulnerability of children, routine stays at Little Bridge House have been cancelled but the hospices remain open for emergency and end-of-life care.

Rick Dean, a retired maintenance man at Petroc and long-standing Children's Hospice South West fundraiser, raised £1,600 doing a 205-mile three-day static cycle at home during lockdown.Rick Dean, a retired maintenance man at Petroc and long-standing Children's Hospice South West fundraiser, raised £1,600 doing a 205-mile three-day static cycle at home during lockdown.

The charity has also developed a ‘hospice, home and virtual’ model to continue caring for families whenever they need it most.

Alli Ryder, CHSW’s director of care, said: “For the first time ever, we have started working in the community, which has been an amazing transformation in our services.

“We have supported children in their homes providing night shifts when care packages in the community have fallen apart, enabling families to step in and care for their children in the morning.

“We have also been providing care for community children’s nurses, cover over weekends and evenings, replacing nasogastric tubes for example.

Little Bridge House in Fremington, the first hospice site for Children's Hospcie South West. Picture: Panoptic MotionLittle Bridge House in Fremington, the first hospice site for Children's Hospcie South West. Picture: Panoptic Motion

“Our care teams have been visiting families on doorsteps giving food parcels and lots of virtual support, including virtual sibling and bereavement groups.

“In a time of acute isolation, anxiety and worry for families, we are understanding how important that virtual touch base is.”

During the past six weeks, the charity, which is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions, has supported 102 bed nights at its hospices, carried out 335 community visits, and made 7,654 virtual contacts with families.

CHSW needs around £11million a year to run its three children’s hospices – including Little Harbour in Cornwall and Charlton Farm near Bristol – and around 85 per cent is raised through voluntary donations.

I’m running because... Supporters did their own 5k Rainbow Run their way and raised more than £90,000 for Children's Hospice South West.I’m running because... Supporters did their own 5k Rainbow Run their way and raised more than £90,000 for Children's Hospice South West.

As a result of the pandemic, the charity has had to cancel or postpone many of its fundraising events planned for the year.

It also had to close its 35 South West charity shops, most of which have now reopened.

CHSW director of fundraising, Paul Courtney, said: “These are uncertain times for everyone but we have been buoyed by the many messages of goodwill and offers of help that we have received from our wonderful supporters.

“Many have had fundraising events cancelled but are passionate about wanting to stand with families who need our love and generosity now more than ever.”

Melanie McVean and friends on Tarka Trail taking part in the Virtual Rainbow Run in June for Children's Hospice South West.Melanie McVean and friends on Tarka Trail taking part in the Virtual Rainbow Run in June for Children's Hospice South West.

The charity has organised virtual rainbow runs and cream teas, and supporters have also been busy organising virtual fundraising events in their homes, from online quizzes to fun, sponsored stay-at-home challenges.

It has also asked supporters to ‘Be Incredible’ and do ‘whatever they can, however they can’ to help counter a fundraising shortfall.

A new Facebook Group, ‘Be Incredible with Children’s Hospice South West’, already has more than 700 members, with many supporters sharing fundraising ideas, as well as tips on keeping safe and looking after their mental wellbeing and physical health during lockdown.

Paul added: “It’s been amazing to see the community of CHSW supporters being incredible and coming together to help the charity and each other through these challenging times.

Rosie Jones from Worry Dolls were among the artists who performed at the Children's Hospice South West Late Summer Sessions virtual music festival in August.Rosie Jones from Worry Dolls were among the artists who performed at the Children's Hospice South West Late Summer Sessions virtual music festival in August.

“It is vital that we still maintain our levels of fundraising income to ensure that we can continue to be there for children and families, both now and into the future, and we can’t thank everyone enough for their support.

“Across the South West, many people don’t know what the coming months will hold, but we can all do something now to play a huge part in our future.”

To find out more about Children’s Hospice South West and ways you can support the charity, log on to www.chsw.org.uk .