The Light Up a Life appeal offers people the chance to remember a loved one, by making a donation to North Devon Hospice (NDH) or Children’s Hospice South West (CHSW) in their memory.

CHSW helps children with a wide range of life-limiting conditions and giving families the chance to make special memories is key to the care provided.

On average, families use the charity’s respite services for six years and many families have been using the service for far longer, including Bideford parents Jo Boydd and Jon Walter and son Sam, who have been visiting Little Bridge House in Fremington since 2008.

Jo, who spoke at the Barnstaple Christmas lights switch-on about the support her family has received, said driving to the hospice for the first time was a daunting experience.

She said: “I was very nervous because I thought it would be quite sad and quite morbid but we walked through the door and it was nothing like we expected. It was amazing; we came for two nights and wanted to stay longer.”

Ten years later, the hospice has become almost an extended part of their family – a place where they all look forward to visiting, especially Sam, who will be 15 years old tomorrow (Thursday).

The teenager, who goes to Pathfield School in Barnstaple, was born with an undiagnosed neurological condition that affects his physical and mental skills.

Jo said: “It affects pretty much everything but he’s actually a really happy little chap and coming to somewhere like this, where it is all about making the most of life, is just perfect for him.

“A lot of people would want to wrap a child like Sam in cotton wool; but he absolutely comes alive with all the attention, the resources and the facilities.

“Sam likes the sensory room and hydro pool and loves the music therapy sessions with Ceridwen, the hospice’s music therapist. He was also fortunate enough to be part of the CD that was made, something we will be able to treasure for ever.”

And that care, support and vital respite is something the couple say extends to the whole family.

“It is the only real break that Jon and I can get,” said Jo, “to know that we can have a few nights where we can now go home and have that catch-up time means the world.

“I think without that, a lot of families like us would just not be able to get through life.”