To accommodate all of our very special supporters we held two Christmas Dinners in the House of Commons in December –
Senior Trustee, Michael Douglas, welcomed guests on both occasions and introduced the speaking guests. After dinner, Michael gave us a brief history of the Charity and introduced Trustee Natalie Reilly. Natalie gave special thanks to those in attendance who had done so much for us throughout the year. Natalie detailed many of the events and projects that our guests had managed, and gave thanks individually and collectively, and led an amazing and well deserved round of applause. On the 7th December our first speaker was Rachel Rogan. Rachel spoke about the Lily Pad Appeal and explained what we were raising £750,000 for. She gave us an insight into the exciting range of projects that we have planned for the year ahead. Rachel described the current condition of the existing facilities for Oncology children in Croydon University Hospital, which left us all in no doubt of the high priority and importance of our appeal. Rachel said that we had made a very good start with the fundraising and thanked everyone present who had donated or pledged support in the year ahead. Rachel received a very warm round of applause. Michael then introduced Dr Ildiko Schuller. Dr Schuller expressed her thanks to Michael and Natalie and the Chartwell team for the support that they had provided over the last few years. Dr Schuller gave us an idea of what an average day on the Ward is like for a Consultant Paediatric Oncologist and the variety of challenges that she and her team face daily. Dr Schuller left us in no doubt that there was no such thing as an average day, but described well some of the humour that exists between doctors and patients, which gave us all a reason to smile. Dr Schuller was accompanied by Dr Colin Cunningham who very kindly agreed to speak for us next year. Michael thanked Dr Schuller for speaking and for the very important work that she does for our families and children, she was justly rewarded with a round of applause. Michael then introduced Lucy Bramley. Lucy gave us a very clear description of the ‘No Isolation’ robots that we have been supplying to children undergoing treatment. Lucy told us that the robots act as a child’s eyes and ears in the classroom, allowing then to keep up to speed with their schooling while undergoing treatment. Lucy explained the benefits that the robots bring which are truly holistic and particularly important to their social inclusion throughout their treatment period which can be three years or even more. Michael thanked Lucy and she received a very warm round of applause. On the 14th December, after Michael’s introduction and Natalie’s special thanks, Michael introduced our first speaker, Lead MacMillan Paediatric Oncology Nurse Specialist, Catherine Wilde. Cat gave thanks to the Charity for the support that they had provided to the Tiger Ward over the years and to Michael for supporting her efforts to get increased staffing levels for the Ward. Cat told us of the great joy that she and her team experience when children go into remission, but also the great sadness when treatment fails. Cat was rewarded with a very warm round of applause. Michael thanked her for the great love and dedication that she gives to some of our very unwell children.
Michael then introduced Mrs Karen Powell. Karen told us about the life of her beautiful and courageous daughter, Sophie. She told us of her dream to raise enough money to buy a holiday home for children like herself, children that were being treated for cancer or leukaemia. Sophie wanted other children battling cancer to share the fun and happy memories she enjoyed while holidaying on the Isle of Wight. Karen told us how inspirational Sophie was and how her drive and determination inspired the Powell family and friends to raise over £100,000 for Children’s Charities. The Powell family provided the funds to us to make the purchase and a beautiful seaside lodge, named ‘Sophie’s Wish’, is now available for families with children undergoing treatment for cancer or leukaemia free of charge through our charity. Michael thanked Karen for agreeing to share Sophie’s Wish with us and commended her on her courage. Karen replied saying that she loved talking about Sophie. Karen received a remarkable round of applause from our guests, most of whom were in, or very near to tears. Michael then introduced Claire Smith, Head of Teaching for the Safari and Tiger Wards. Claire explained how she had discovered the ‘No Isolation’ robots and, through Cat Wilde, had been introduced to Michael. She explained that she had arranged a demonstration of the robot in the Tiger Ward and that Michael had been invited. Shortly after the demonstration, she told us that Michael was so impressed with the clear difference that the robots would make to the lives of children undergoing treatment that he made an initial order, far more than she had hoped for! Claire explained in detail how the robots worked and the great benefits that they would bring, and thanked everyone who will be supporting the robots in the future. Michael thanked Claire and she received a very warm round of applause. Michael then introduced Robert Neill MP. He explained that Bob had been a significant contributor to the charity for many years which included generous financial support. Bob thanked Michael and Natalie and the supporters of the Trust for their hard work and congratulated them on another successful year. He gave us some very interesting stories about his career before becoming a Member of Parliament and an insight into the current problems we have over Brexit. After a big round of applause, Michael thanked Bob for his continued support and wished him good fortune with the Brexit outcome. On both evenings, we were entertained by an amazing and talented Soprano, Courtney Noakes. Unsupported, Courtney sang Pia Jesu, Silent Night and O Mio Babbino Cara, and her beautiful and powerful performance brought a tear to many an eye. She received standing ovations each night. We were very lucky to have experienced a live performance by such a talented young artiste. Michael brought both evenings to a close by thanking everyone for their amazing support and particularly the Chartwell Team led by Natalie Reilly. He said that Natalie was the true heartbeat of the charity and that he was fortunate to be working with her on the challenges that lie ahead. He wished everyone a safe journey home, and a healthy, happy and successful 2019.