CHILDREN’S Hospices Across Scotland, better known as CHAS, is celebrating a major milestone; 30 years of supporting children with life-shortening conditions and their families across the whole of Scotland.
CHAS was officially founded in February 1992 by a group of pioneering volunteers and parents who previously had to travel to England to access children’s hospice services.
Together, the group worked hard to set up the charity before securing the money required to set up the very first children’s hospice in Scotland ‘Rachel House’ which began supporting children and families in 1996.
This was thanks to the MacRobert Trust who generously donated £2 million on their Golden Anniversary, the Daily Record which ran a hugely successful campaign and raised £4 million over 13 months and the thousands of generous and loyal supporters across Scotland.
Three decades later, the charity remains focused on its founding vision of reaching every dying child by providing the highest-quality children’s palliative care and hospice services.
Edinburgh woman Fiona Hunter played a key role in the story of CHAS and is still a volunteer with the charity today. She felt driven to help set up Scotland’s first children’s hospice after working as a social worker in the early 90s and meeting Nancy Blaik (mother of Daniel McCalman) and Lorraine Dickson (mother of Mark Dickson).
“Nancy and Lorraine had been to Martin House in England and they became determined to build a children’s hospice in Scotland. We started planning a way forward and soon discovered there was a group trying to do the same in Glasgow. The then Scottish Office insisted on there being one focused group and this is how CHAS was born.
“The Scottish Office introduced us to the MacRobert Trust who were looking for a worthwhile cause to receive £2 million on their Golden Anniversary. This necessitated formalising the board, appointing a finance director and creating a business plan. We had to move fast to secure the money.”
The CHAS CEO and new board members were tasked with finding the perfect site for the very first children’s hospice in Scotland. Kinross was seen as a perfect fit and this would be the site where Rachel House was built and opened in 1996 by Princess Anne. The walled garden where Rachel House was built was generously donated by the Montgomery family who owned Kinross House. Rachel House was named after Lady Rachel MacRobert.
In the early 90s, a series of fundraising lunches Fiona arranged raised over £25,000 for CHAS annually. After Rachel House was up and running, Fiona decided it was time to take a step back and watch from a distance. She stepped down from the board after ten years but three years ago returned to CHAS as a volunteer.
“I’m just in awe of how CHAS has grown and changed with the demands put on it. Two hospices, teams now working in hospitals and outreach teams providing home care and support. The most recent changes were necessitated by the pandemic, CHAS rose to the occasion. The ethos is as alive now as it was when it was set up – it was always – and still is – all about the families and I’m proud to have played my part in shaping the last 30 years of such an important cause. My passion now is to educate as many people as possible about the need to support every child in Scotland with a life-shortening condition and their families.”
Peta Hay, Chair of the CHAS Board, said:
“We are celebrating and recognising the families, staff, volunteers and supporters who have contributed over the years since the inception of CHAS and looking to the future of the organisation, redoubling our efforts on our mission to reach every dying child.
“Our work will never be done no matter how aspirational our ambition – there will always be children with palliative care needs and at CHAS, we believe that no family should face the death of their child alone. I’m proud and privileged to be Chair during this momentous anniversary.”
CHAS’s 30th celebrations will be ongoing throughout the whole of 2022, ending in February 2023, and the charity will be focusing on telling the stories of those who have helped them reach this incredible milestone and those who will continue to help them ensure that no one has to face the death of their child alone.
If anyone has any CHAS memories they’d like to share, they can contact the charity’s Communications Manager, Emma Craig at firstname.lastname@example.org.