In September last year, parents from Ipswich hosted a sell-out firewalk for East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH), the charity that helped them make precious memories during the 18 days they had with their firstborn child, James, in 2016.
The event raised £11,818, enough to pay for two days’ care across Suffolk and East Essex. In memory of baby James, parents Joanne Rawlings, 37, NHS Administration Support in Trauma and Orthopaedics at Ipswich Hospital, and Jonathan, 43, General Manager at Precision Cargo Services, Felixstowe, decided the money would be split over 19 April (three-year-old son Joshua James’ birthday) and 28 April (baby James’ birthday).
“Being able to fund to pay for two days on both of my son’s birthdays is just amazing! It went above and beyond what I’d hoped to raise from the firewalk. It feels very fitting to be able to celebrate James’ fourth birthday in this way, especially when fundraising isn’t possible at the moment. He may have only been with us for 18 days, but his legacy will hopefully help other local families in their time of need. The Treehouse will always feel like my second home and a safe place. This is the place we shared the happiest times with James.
“Of course, we wouldn’t have been able to raise this amazing amount without the fantastic support from our sponsors and the venue for letting us use it for free or everyone who took part, sponsored or donated raffles prizes. Thank you. Without their support, this would never have happened.”
In a home video Joanne released in August last year on social media, she said:
“We didn’t have a clue what to expect; we just didn’t know what was going to happen; it was so scary. We turned up at The Treehouse in the early hours of the morning and what greeted us was the warmest of welcomes. I’ll never forget it. James was settled in his own nursery. There were nursery rhymes playing for him for the first time. He looked so cosy in his Moses basket and was away from all the machines and wires, and that was the first time we felt like a proper family.
“We got to hold him, we got to do everything that you just take for granted when you take your baby home. We got to have our family visit whenever we wanted, we got Sunday dinner, we managed to have a picnic outside. The Treehouse and the staff were amazing, and they made this most amazing memory book for us. I could never thank them enough for what they did. Giving James his first bath, having a film night in the sensory room, the photos and memories we made there are something I’ll treasure forever.”
The family spent five days at The Treehouse, EACH’s hospice in Ipswich, with Joanne and Jonathan showed how to care for James as he required feeding through a tube and various medicines. Finally, they were able to spend five days at home. James sadly died on 16 May, aged just 18 days.
“Without EACH’s help, I don’t know what would’ve happened. They were a lifeline for us and when James passed away we took him back to The Treehouse, and he was settled in his nursery until his funeral. The thing that really worried me was James had never been on his own since he was born, but the staff and hospice kindly arranged to make sure there was always somebody there until his funeral, and that’s something I’ll never forget.”
Jo White, EACH Suffolk Community Fundraiser, said:
“A big thank you to the Rawlings’ for all their hard work getting the firewalk together and making it such a success. Thanks also to everyone who took part. The result is a very fitting tribute to James.
“Unfortunately, fundraising events like these simply can’t take place at the moment. Our hospices are still largely funded by the continued generosity of the public. With this in mind, we’re encouraging people to get creative with at-home fundraising ideas, details of which can be found on our website. If you have any ideas of your own there are members of our dedicated fundraising team still available remotely who can help you get started!”
To support EACH in continuing to provide vital care for children and young people with life-threatening conditions, and support for their families, you can donate here: www.justgiving.com/campaign/each-covid19.