The crowd at Barnstaple’s Christmas lights switch on heard moving accounts from two local families as the Gazette Light Up a Life appeal was launched live on stage.

For 23 years the appeal has raised money for both Children's Hospice South West (CHSW) and North Devon Hospice (NDH) as people are invited to make a donation in memory of a loved one.

The launch took place at Barnstaple's annual festive event for the third year running and the crowd of thousands heard how both charities had made a huge difference to the lives of two families.

Representing the children's hospice were Louise and Stuart Pedlar with their son Noah, who has spina bifida, and their daughter Heidi, together with Steve Burdon on behalf of NDH, whose wife Sharon passed away there in March this year.

Compere Seth Conway spoke to both families to hear their stories and why things would be very different for them without the hospices.

The Pedlars were told four years ago on Noah's first birthday that one of his many medical conditions could cause a sudden end-of-life event.

They were referred to the hospice and were apprehensive about visiting the charity's Little Bridge House in Fremington for the first time, but soon found it to be very different from what they'd imagined.

Lousie said: "Like most people, I had this preconception that hospice was the end, but the focus is not about end-of-life, it's about life and about making the most of every single minute that you have for however long you have that time for.

Noah, now nearly 5, loves visiting Little Bridge House with his mum and dad and older sister Heidi, 8.

"He just loves everything from the moment he sets his wheels inside the door," said Louise.

"He loves the big open space as being a wheelchair user, he can get from one end of the house to the other and there is nowhere he can't go, whereas in lots of places it's restricted.

"The sibling team have been an amazing support to Heidi in terms of helping her to deal with all the emotions that come with having a brother with a life-threatening condition.

"The hospice brings hope to families, the hospice brings life to families - it's all about making the most of every precious moment."

When Steve and Sharon Burdon from Barnstaple learned she had terminal cancer, North Devon Hospice helped them make the most of the time that remained.

Steve said during the 14 months Sharon attended the hospice she was comfortable and not in pain and passed away surrounded by her family.

He said the charity had helped to create precious memories and get the most out of the time: "It allowed us to live and laugh so the family spent 14 months doing so many different things creating unbelievable memories.

"It supported our whole family and this place is not about dying, it's about living."

There are several ways to take part in the Light Up a Life appeal - text LUAL 5 to 70450 to donate £5 (or any amount up to £20) or go to www.lual.co.uk or you can attend any of the Light Up a Life services taking place across the area, as follows.

Services 2019

Methodist Church, Marwood, Wednesday, December 4 at 6.30pm

The Bethel Church, East-the-Water, Thursday, December 5 at 7.30pm

Grosvenor Church, Barnstaple, Friday, 6 December at 7pm

St Philip and St James Church, Ilfracombe, Sunday, December 8 at 6.30pm

Northam Methodist Church, Sunday, December 8 at 4pm (CHSW only)

Fremington Methodist Church, Sunday, December 8 at 6.30pm

Cheriton Fitzpaine, St Matthews's Church, Sunday, December 8 at 6pm (CHSW only)

Christ Church, Braunton, Monday, December 9 at 7pm

All Hallows Church, Woolsery, Wednesday, December 11 at 7pm

Methodist Church, South Molton, Wednesday, December 11 at 7pm

Christ Church, Barnstaple, Thursday, December 12 at 7pm (CHSW only)

Bideford Pannier Market, Saturday, December 14 at 6pm

Methodist Church, Combe Martin, Sunday, December 15 at 6.30pm

Methodist Church, Torrington, Sunday, December 15 at 6.30pm

Peter's Church, North Tawton, Friday, December 20 at 6.30pm (CHSW only)