On Tuesday 12 June, Julia Donaldson – author of an extensive range of children’s books, including The Gruffalo, Stick Man and Room on the Broom – spent the afternoon at Chestnut Tree House children’s hospice, together with her husband, Dr Malcolm Donaldson.
Julia and Malcolm, who are Patrons of Chestnut Tree House for 2018, treated a group of 20 children and family members to a unique storytelling experience in the hospice’s Woodland Walk.
The talented pair recreated three family favourites: The Gruffalo, A Squash and a Squeeze, and Superworm, using promenade theatre to involve the children and make the most of the natural woodland setting. Some children and members of the hospice team also got involved, playing the different characters featured in the stories.
In addition to the storytelling experience in the Woodland Walk, the children were encouraged to immerse themselves in Julia’s stories with a themed activity, organised by Chestnut Tree House Activities Coordinator, Estee Radford. Children were asked to use their imagination and create, and name, their own monster, which they then showed Julia.
Before leaving Chestnut Tree House, Julia spent time signing autographs and writing messages to the children, giving each of them one of her books to take away. One of the children, Fia, presented Julia and Malcolm with a special Gruffalo card, which was made by Chestnut Tree House to say thank you.
Juliette MacPherson, Fundraising Development Manager at Chestnut Tree House, said: “Julia and Malcolm’s visit provided a truly magical afternoon for the children and families, and it was lovely to see so many smiles. Everyone loved the experience and really felt like they were involved in something special.
“Moments are precious to all of us, but even more so when you have a child with a life-shortening condition. We are so grateful to Julia and Malcolm for helping these families to make some truly special memories.”
Chestnut Tree House opened its doors on 11 November 2003 and currently provides care and support to around 300 children with life-shortening conditions, and their families, across Sussex and South East Hampshire – both at the hospice and in families’ own homes. The cost of providing this vital service is over £3.9 million per year, yet the hospice receives less than 6% central government funding, so relies heavily on the generosity and support of the community to continue providing vital care to children and families.