Celebrations at Acorns Children's Hospice after Walsall charity is saved

Families and staff have celebrated at Acorns Children's Hospice in Walsall in the glorious sunshine after news the hospice had been saved.

Staff and fundraisers celebrate as event was held to celebrate Acorns Children's Hospice in Walsall being saved from closure.
Staff and fundraisers celebrate as event was held to celebrate Acorns Children's Hospice in Walsall being saved from closure.

Acorns announced the future of the much-loved Walstead Road centre was secured almost two years after a heartfelt appeal was launched.

And now, with the sun shining down, families and fundraisers gathered at the hospice for a small celebration in line with Covid-19 rules.

And among those was long-standing Acorns supporter and Councillor Mohammed Nazir, whose children received care from the charity.

Councillor Nazir was among those who met with Princess Diana when she opened the children's hospice in Selly Oak in December 1988.

He said: "I'm really overwhelmed because Acorns is close to our hearts – I was there when the Selly Oak hospice was opened by Princess Diana.

Councillor Mohammed Nazir gives the news the thumbs up.

"I've kept close with Acorns since then and the services they provide is outstanding, it's second to none and that's speaking from personal experience.

"Acorns has done so much for families and the talk about it closing down worried so many families. It brought out the warmth in so many people – Acorns has helped so many and it's really good news."

WALSALL COPYRIGHT EXPRESS&STAR TIM THURSFIELD 22/04/21.Event to celebrate Acorns Hospice, Walsall, being saved from closure..Chief exec Toby Porter and Andy Street celebrate..

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street, patron of the Save The Black Country Hospice Appeal, said the support people had provided was "never in doubt" as he praised the trustees for allowing them to fundraise due to the financial position.

Mr Street said: "The support was never in doubt and the important thing is the trustees gave more time for the appeal to get momentum. It was extremely important.

"I've done some fundraising and we did a lovely event with Steven Knight as well. And it's important to think about what this really means – children who are residents, and those who have home provision, will continue to receive that support."

Jen Dalton unveils the Isabella's Place sign.

Jen Dalton, the mother of Isabella Lyttle whose story inspired so many people to donate, unveiled a plaque at the arts and crafts room which has been renamed "Isabella's Place" in memory of the 11-year-old.

Jen said: "I'm very emotional today and I'm trying my best not to cry. I'm overwhelmed by it all. Being here again and knowing the hospice is safe it's just a phenomenal feeling. Isabella has been the driving force behind all of this – it's down to her, it's not me.

An emotional Jen Dalton at the event..

"The crafts room was something she always went to – it was her escape from her treatment and she forgot all of her problems. She did thank you cards, or a picture, and she got so focused on it that it took away any concerns. The room being named in her memory is just phenomenal."

"Isabella went to a lot of places and Acorns was one of those places and even now coming back two years on, certain smells and things evoke certain memories. I feel love, warm and comfort when I'm here – she's here in the fabric of this place, it's amazing."

Staff and fundraisers celebrate as event was held to celebrate Acorns Children's Hospice in Walsall being saved from closure.

Jen also praised the support she had received from Acorns and was wearing a necklace with Isabella's finger prints on. She added: "I wear it every day and it's something Acorns did for me two years ago and they're still supporting us now – I wouldn't be here without them."

Acorns chief executive Toby Porter celebrates..

Toby Porter, chief executive of Acorns, said the sunshine was "very symbolic" – with not a dark cloud in sight as people gathered outdoors at the hospice.

He said: "It gives me enormous pride and I stand here with great humility and gratitude to thank some very special people who who have really spearheaded the campaign.

"It feels very symbolic – we've had a lot of rain and clouds. I'm very excited for the children and families now and the children and families who will be involved with us in the future."

"They were quite long odds [of the hospice surviving] – we were dealing with a complex picture at the time, there was uncertainty nationally about funding and locally as well."

Staff and fundraisers celebrate as event was held to celebrate Acorns Children's Hospice in Walsall being saved from closure.

Mr Porter paid tribute to Mark Lyttle and Jen and credited them for being at the forefront of the campaign – with Isabella's story inspiring so many to donate and become involved.

And now the hospice is finally able to look to the future, with plans being made to refurbish the children's bedroom – which hasn't been done in 20 years and upgrade some of the features.

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