Founder of hospice hosts ball in memory of son

THE founder of an important charity hospice in Essex is holding a Secret Garden Ball on Saturday 22nd September at The Lion House in Boreham in memory of her son Jonathan.

Denise realised that there was a need for specific hospice care for young people aged 16-40 when she was caring for Jonathan, who was born in 1983.

When he was just three years old, Jonathan was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy which is a genetic disorder that causes the muscles throughout the body to weaken and degenerate.

From the start, Denise and her husband, Allan, were determined that Jonathan would live a full and happy life. She said: “At his diagnosis, we were told that he’d live until his mid-teens. The family all decided that life is for living and he would absolutely have the best life.”

As he grew older, his mobility decreased: he was using a wheelchair and scooter from the age of eight and by 10 he was permanently using an electric wheelchair. However, that didn’t stop the Whiffin family from travelling to France, Belgium and Holland.

Denise eventually rang a children’s hospice in Cambridge to ask if they cared for teenagers. “The hospice became our second home. We could call them at any time for support and advice. I don’t know how we would have managed without them. “

“The hospice provided excellent care and the staff were lovely, but most of the children in there were under five so Jonathan had no social interaction with his peers while we were there for four or five days at a time which was hard.”

Sadly, Jonathan died in Broomfield Hospital in 2002, just before his 19th birthday.

Hard work

It was a year later that Denise got the idea of setting up a hospice for young adults in his memory. “Remembering Jonathan, I found myself asking how I could make this better for other people. I had experience of looking after my son 24/7 with some support at home and could see the need for specific age-appropriate hospice care for young adults.”

For the first few years, Denise and her friends worked hard at fundraising until they were able to appoint a Director of Nursing and a Fundraiser. Then the charity got CQC registration in 2010 and began outreach working, becoming the first hospice service in the country to care for young adults aged 16-40 within the comfort of their own homes.

Denise explained: “The young adults that we met said that they wanted to remain in their homes with their family and friends doing what they enjoyed for as long as they could. The J’s ‘hospice-at-home’ service helps them to do this.”

The J’s Hospice currently supports around 100 young adults across Essex with a variety of complex needs, providing tailored nursing and emotional care, advice and social activities.

It holds events including next month’s Chelmsford Marathon and the upcoming Secret Garden Ball. It has recently joined with Havens Hospices to help secure its long-term future.

Tickets for the Secret Garden Ball on Saturday 22nd September at The Lion House in Boreham cost only £50 per person which includes a welcome drink, delicious three course meal and half a bottle of wine. Tables of 10 or 12 are available at this exclusive black tie event. Doors open at 6.30pm and there will also be an auction, raffle and dancing before the stylish evening ends at midnight.

To buy tickets contact Zoe at the J’s Hospice by Wednesday 19th September: [email protected] – 01245 475474.

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