On Friday I was invited down as a blog ambassador to visit the Tŷ Hafan childrens hospice. Saying yes seemed automatic, but it wasn't something I took lightly. I wasn't sure I'd be able to keep my emotions in check and lets face it, very poorly children don't need to see me balling my eyes out there, quite the opposite.
The hubby and I made a special day of it, he booked the day off work so he could look after Squidge while I was there, and be able to drop me off etc. After Squidge not napping in the morning, we left a little earlier and he napped on the way there. We stopped off at one of my favourite places to eat in that neck of the woods, The Captains Wife. Both food and service were brilliant, but I couldn't help feel woozy at the thought of where I was about to go.
At 1:30 I landed at reception of Tŷ Hafan and was greeted by lovely friendly staff. So far 5 mins in and I hadn't cried yet, I'd chocked up, but hadn't cried - always a good sign. What I did notice were lots of paintings around of an older lady, so when we sat down to meet our 'tour guide', I asked who she was.
This kind looking lady is Suzanne Goodall. In 1988 after retiring, she decided to start and try to raise money to build Wales' first childrens hospice. Just 11 years later, after raising £3 million, the doors to the hospice opened it's arms to very poorly children and their families.
What they provide is an utterly amazing service to children who are as they describe, life limited (not expected to live past the age of 18), and they are almost wholly funded by donations from people like you and me (only 4% comes from the government).
One of the members of the marketing team gave us a bit of a talk, letting us know what to expect while walking around, and that some of the facility we wouldn't be able to see as there were a couple of very poorly babies that had arrived (cue being choked up again!). With that, the tour commenced!
When Tŷ Hafan started up, they only offered short break care - this is where a whole family (often including uncles and aunties) come to stay. Here they create precious moments and provide palliative care. Now they also have outreach services (music therapy at the childrens homes, bereavement councelling to parents as well as family support - helping families work out what financial support they're entitled to, and taking them through the application process).
They currently look after 260 children across south, west and mid Wales, and 200 bereaved families.
It felt like almost every wall there was covered in hand and foot prints, of children and their families. It was so colourful and happy, but I also couldn't help wonder how many of those little prints were of children who'd died :(
They have complimentary therapy rooms (here the families can get massages etc). There's a newly opened hydrotherapy pool which helps children in pain. A teenage room - the boys end has xbox, playstation, lots of TV's and a hi-fi with comfy sofas, the girls end is literally a massive bright pink wall with a pretty dresser. There's also a sound proofed music room fully equipped with guitars, a piano, drum set & more. An arts & crafts room, a great room to get messy in as it's all wipe downable - it's super colourful too. Kids who are there can get creative - while we were there we saw a little one getting their hand-print done. There's also a sensory room that opened up very recently - from what we understand it's pretty amazing.
About 18 months ago they also had a play area installed - it's so fantastic! All wheelchair friendly - there's even a wheelchair trampolene and a wheelchair race track - how fab is that! So important that the kids have somewhere like that outdoors to play.
They also have a memorial garden, thankfully we didn't see that, there's no way I'd have been able to keep my composure then... they basically have a fountain, and lots of pebbles. Each pebble has the name of a child who's passed away on it. Then twice a year Tŷ Hafan hold a memorial service and invite all the parents to it.
What Tŷ Hafan offer is the ultimate in care, in every sense, to children and their families - it's a place that you hope you never ever have to take your child to, but one you are so glad is there, should that time ever come.
If you want to make a difference this Christmas, why not donate to such an amazing cause, I know I will be. Also please don't forget to share your precious moments on Twitter and Facebook using the hashtag #preciousmoments and tagging Tŷ Hafan in the messages - this week's word is 'Inspiring' - honestly, the whole of Tŷ Hafan is inspiring.