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Acorns boss speaks of charity's challenges amid coronavirus crisis

By Dayna Farrington | Walsall | In-depth | Published:

Toby Porter, chief executive of Acorns Children's Hospice, speaks of the charity's challenges amid the coronavirus crisis.

Nurses from the Acorns Children's Hospice is PPE during the coronavirus pandemic

On Tuesday, May 12, our Acorns Children’s Hospice in Walsall quietly marked a big anniversary. It was exactly 20 years since the hospice was opened for Black Country children and families by the late Lord Lichfield.

It is obviously no time for celebration. The nurses and other care staff at Acorns in the Black Country were in any case too busy, looking after some very poorly children in our care, and following strict new infection control procedures to reduce the rsik of Covid-19 spreading in the hospice.

Jacob with nurse Teresa at Acorns Children's Hospice

Until this crisis, we have always embraced at Acorns a strict ‘no uniform’ policy, wanting to create as homely and child-friendly an environment in the hospices as possible. Now, our nurses need to be wearing advanced PPE, much as you will have seen on TV reports from intensive care units.

I watched them through the window of the hospice on Friday. It brought a lump to my throat to see for myself that the essence and warmth of our care was entirely unchanged, and to see the children and our nurses smiling at each other with their eyes. We are very proud of the impact our hospice in Walsall has had on some of the most vulnerable children and families of the Black Country community over the past two decades.

Toby Porter

There is no doubt the hospice has been a powerful force for good in the lives of thousands of families, and a credit to our incredible team of staff and volunteers.

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The hospice has also been at the heart of our Acorns Covid-19 emergency response – we are currently caring for some very poorly children at our hospices.

Jude with Acorns volunteer Julie

Thanks to the generosity of this incredible warm-hearted community, over the past two months we have opened a new service.

We have been able to deliver huge quantities of food and other essential supplies direct to the doorsteps of families who use Acorns and who are understandably strictly shielding their children at home.

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The construction of Acorns Children's Hospice in 1997

All of these supplies have been donated at the hospice and then organised into family parcels, which are distributed by our staff and volunteers.

We have heard from so many families how much this has meant to them. It is truly heart-warming.

Bob Warman at the topping out ceremony in 1999

We are of course also very grateful to Express & Star readers, and to the whole Black Country community, for having reached this 20th milestone.

As most of you know, it was only a year ago that we had to announce the hospice might close within months. Since that time, there has been an incredible response to our Save Acorns Black Country Hospice Appeal, which has now raised an incredible £700,000 of its £2 million total target. When we launched the appeal last July, we did set ourselves a few years to reach this target.

Lord Lichfield opened Acrons Children's Hospice in 2000

We will probably now need the full two years to do so, perhaps slightly longer, given the nature of this Covid-19 crisis.

So much of the incredible sums donated so far have been donated in pubs, clubs, shops and schools or raised by sponsorship for events that are currently on hold.

Acorns Children's Hospice, in Walsall, in 2009

But the brilliant news is that thanks to what you have already raised, and special support for the UK’s hospices announced by the Chancellor in April, we’ve been able to place Acorns in the Black Country at the heart of our emergency response.

So, thank you to everyone who has supported our Black Country children’s hospice over the past 20 years.

Acorns Children's Hospice, in Walsall, in 2018

You have given us the best possible present, the privilege of being able to adapt this vital local service for the children and families who need our support in their hour of need, and to be able to make a valuable contribution to the health and well-being of everyone in this special, generous community.

Dayna Farrington

By Dayna Farrington
Senior reporter based at Wolverhampton

Reporter for the Express & Star based at Wolverhampton.

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