For the past year, visitors to David Lloyd Leisure clubs up and down the country have been donating their digital pennies to Together for Short Lives. Whether paying by card at the clubs spas and café bars or at the club reception, visitors have the chance to add a little extra to their bill for charity, making well over 80,000 micro-donations in just 12 months.
This generosity has added up to thousands of pounds of additional funding for Together for Short Lives’ invaluable work, offering vital care and support for children with life-limiting illnesses and their families. Thanks to those donations, the charity is able to support more children like Rafferty.
When Rafferty was three days old he started having seizures. After weeks of tests doctors diagnosed him with atypical early infantile epileptic encephalopathy, otherwise known as Ohtahara syndrome, catastrophic epilepsy.
The hospital said there was nothing more they could do for Rafferty and the epilepsy nurse told his parents, Nina and John, about Little Havens Children’s Hospice in Essex, one of the many hospices working closely with Together for Short Lives.
Nina said, “It was a beautiful day when we arrived at Little Havens although seeing the word ‘hospice’ as we arrived really hit home. It was very emotional. But we were given such a warm and wonderful welcome.
“It was the complete opposite to being in hospital. It was sheer relief and suddenly all of the ‘normal things’ like Rafferty feeling the wind, rain and sunshine on his face became so important.”
But it’s not just the ‘new lease of life’ that Nina says Little Havens has given her family; it’s the time they now have to just be parents to Rafferty and his brother Nathaniel.
“At Little Havens we can switch off from the regimented clock watching and all the medical stuff over to the nurses and we can just be there for the cuddles. The multi-sensory room is Rafferty’s favourite, the reaction on his face is amazing. For Nathaniel it’s like an Essex Disneyland!
“Without Little Havens we wouldn’t function properly and if Rafferty had stayed in hospital for another day I don’t think he’d be here now. At Little Havens we almost forget we have any problems. It feels like we’ve joined a little family.
“We have since returned several times for respite, choosing to all stay there as a family. It’s a highlight in our calendar and we eagerly count down the days until our next visit. Rafferty even gave his first smile at Little Havens.”
£1,000 can pay for the whole family to benefit from a respite break at their local children’s hospice service. To put that in perspective, enough has been raised through Pennies at David Lloyd Leisure clubs so far to pay for the equivalent of 14 respite breaks. When you think of it like that, you realise what an extraordinary difference a donation of just a few pence really can make.
And the support doesn’t stop with Pennies. Over the past two years, staff members at David Lloyd Leisure have embraced the charity partnership, dressing up, jumping out of planes, cycling huge distances, holding marathon spin sessions and a whole lot more. The introduction of Pennies has been a great success, spreading awareness of the partnership to staff and customers and making a real impact for children and their families across the UK.