12 years ago on the 12th December, our founder Sebastian officially launched his last wish, setting his charity on a journey that has taken us from the heartache of losing our boy just twelve days later (on Christmas Eve 2003) to where we stand today. Sebastian’s aim was simple yet vital; he wanted to create somewhere private, spacious and exclusive for other life-limited children, giving them a place where they could rest, relax and build memories with family and loved ones away from prying eyes, gruelling treatments and the stresses of an uncertain future. Sebastian’s personal experience as a young boy battling with cancer provided him with a mature insight into the impact on family life following diagnosis of a life-threatening condition and it is upon these foundations that our holistic approach to family care has evolved.
It took seven and a half years to finally realise Sebastian’s dream but today The Bluebells is the UK’s only purpose built family respite house, delivering the support Sebastian envisaged to hundreds of families who travel from more than 40 counties of England, Scotland and Wales to access our support. In recent years the expansion of our outreach services has resulted in delivery of emotional, social and practical support to more than 340 families in Berkshire, Surrey, Hampshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. Our mission is to walk alongside families of seriously-ill children from diagnosis, throughout treatment and beyond- we remain a constant, listening to our families and adapting to their concerns to address unmet needs.
With more than 49,000 seriously-ill children in the UK we are clearly unable to meet national demand but we recognise the need to expand our service provision to meet an ever growing population within our outreach catchment area.
It seems entirely fitting that in a week that poignantly reflects on our origins we are on the cusp of bringing our model of care back to Berkshire, the county where Sebastian was born and raised. On the 17th December the Bracknell Borough planning committee will consider our application to build a new ‘Bluebells’ together with an outreach centre in the nearby woodland setting of Crowthorne. Our award winning services have been recognised by Sir Andrew Morris, Chief Executive of Frimley Health Trust, who has endorsed our application to bring a greater Trust presence to Berkshire and it is hoped the planning committee will seize this opportunity to give more families of life-limited and life-threatened children the much needed family support they deserve.
Sebastian, you set us on a remarkable journey that has created an ever evolving ‘Family of Families.’ This week could be another momentous step on an already incredible path - we hope you can guide the planning committee to make the right decision on the 17th.