Thursday, 13 June 2024
UK Charity Week 2024 - Sponsored by Sinclair Method UK
Thursday, 13 June 2024

Much-loved Derbyshire charity reports soaring demand in its 18th year

A much-loved Derbyshire charity supporting families to make memories together when a life-limiting illness means time may be short has reported soaring demand as it marks its 18th birthday in 2024.

Maria Hanson MBE has reported that her highly valued Melbourne-based charity me&dee supported more than 700 families in 2023 – far in excess of the 100 families a year for which the organisation was set up.

The charity’s CEO – who turns 70 this year and faces life-limiting medical challenges herself – has announced an ‘evolving change in direction’ for me&dee.

Its small team is working tirelessly to create special bespoke memory-making experiences with high impact for the hundreds of families on its books – including exclusive swimming sessions at Moorways in Derby and days out at White Post Farm for families going through gruelling hospital treatment.

The charity has announced it is switching focus to move on from single applications from those in need of help to a new continuing care programme so it can support many more people.

As well as that, the charity continues to provide hundreds of its signature ‘Hope’ elephants a year, as well as continuing to work closely with specialist hospital and hospice staff.

Maria said:

“Having provided seaside and then forest-based holidays for ten years, the needs of the families who apply to me&dee have evolved in that families are facing too short a time together to be able to plan for a holiday.

“Sadly, many applicants have faced just weeks together – in some instances even days – so a holiday has become no longer the viable option to support so many dozens of families. Working closely with palliative care teams has also impacted the number of applications where the charity needs to be reactive and work very quickly to create a memory-making experience appropriate to such challenging circumstances.”

The aim of me&dee’s new ‘continuing care and support programme’ is to help children and their families make memories with each other, but also with other young people their own age who may also be suffering from a range of issues, including brain cancer, Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, limb amputations as well as the loss of a young parent.

Maria said:

“The children are all getting to know each other, usually 25 in a group, with peer support for parents too who are facing such challenges and separation, stress and often fear for their children within a safe environment, supported by me&dee staff.

“At the monthly splash club sessions at Moorways Sports Village with private hire of two pools, it is such a delight to see 25 children who cannot access mainstream swimming and swim as a family together have such a wonderful time with a tea party afterwards and friendships formed.”

The charity has taken the decision to sell its forest-based holiday lodge acquired a few years ago, with funds raised from the sale to be reinvested back into me&dee so it can carry on its valuable work. No longer taking single nominations, it now works closely with local hospitals and hospices, responding to needs identified by specialist and palliative care nursing teams.

Maria, whose role as CEO of me&dee is unpaid, said:

“I set up me&dee because my cousin Delia and I – who sadly died before we started – wanted to found an organisation where people could get help without having to tick a box, allowing many rare and terminally ill conditions to be supported. Having been extremely poorly ourselves, we were frustrated and hurt when we couldn’t get the help we needed due to our complex cases, so resolved to set up a charity which had a big heart and a wide criteria for any life-threatening and terminal conditions.

“We celebrate our 18th birthday this year and I couldn’t be prouder of what me&dee has achieved. Last year we supported more than 700 families to make memories together with days out, specialist holiday venues, and our continuing care. We also work with local hospices and hospitals, supplying sibling support packs, teenage support packs for urgent admissions and comfort packs for mums, dads, children and teenagers to help make their time in hospital just a little easier.

“The decision to sell our lodge was not easy but it has become clear that me&dee is needed closer to home. We have also been affected by rising costs to run and maintain the lodge– along with everyone else – which has made it harder for us to justify in a small charity which responds closely to need. For every week’s holiday in the lodge, the equivalent cost enables us to support so many more people with our new range of services.

“Charities evolve and we are very excited by the new direction for me&dee as we continue with our small team to enhance our mission to help families make memories together when they are going through some of the toughest times imaginable. I also have my own programme of support I have developed with bereavement, palliative and neonatal nurses along with latterly, infant and child mortuary nurses where our time and funds are making such a huge impact.”

The charity distributes hundreds of cuddly ‘Hope’ elephants each year – a special keepsake with a voice recorder in the ear for recording secret messages, an invaluable comfort for those stuck in hospital, or, sadly, for families to listen to the voices of loved ones who have passed away.

Jill Matthews, chief officer of Derby & Burton Hospitals Charity, said:

“We have worked closely with the team at me&dee for a number of years and are grateful for the Hope elephants that their supporters provide through us, to those receiving care in our hospitals. The Hope elephants go towards providing some comfort and joy for those patients, families and loved ones, who may be experiencing a life-limiting condition or trying to navigate a difficult diagnosis.”

‘Hope’ is now also used in mortuary, adult cancer wards and by bereavement nurses. The elephant has a special tin in her ear to collect very precious items and also for ashes following child cremations.

From as little as £30, anyone can sponsor and be a giver of a cherished Hope for a family.

To find out more about me&dee and how to support them, please visit: www.meanddee.co.uk.

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