Shiver me timbers: There was a special guest on board HMS Demelza and he wasn’t asked to walk the plank.
Radio 2 DJ and TV presenter Chris Evans officially opened the new playground at Demelza’s hospice in Sittingbourne on Monday 29th April and also cut a specially made pirate cake.
Young people who use Demelza also attended the special opening as well as those who have contributed to the Play `n’ Sailing appeal to build the playground.
Demelza Chairman Sarah Phillips thanked Chris for coming and explained why the new playground was needed:
“We’ve got some fantastic facilities here but our outdoor play area was worn out. The playground is probably the most important thing in a children’s hospice.
“We asked the children what they wanted, we asked the parents what they would like. Hence HMS Demelza. It’s massively humbling that so many people donated to this wonderful facility.”
The new playground is fully wheelchair accessible and includes a pirate ship complete with mast, crow’s nest and warning bell, a beach area with a hammock as well as the traditional playground elements such as swings and a roundabout.
Teenager Jordan, who comes to Demelza, helped Chris to smash a sugar glass bottle against the pirate ship to official open the new facility.
Chris said: “It’s great to be here today. What a gorgeous day. Let’s go and have a play!”
He explained how the visit to Demelza came about:
“My friend Rohan strong-armed me here. He said: `You’ve got to come here’. I can instantly see why. All children’s hospices are special. It’s all brilliant.”
He also mentioned the 1,200 volunteers who help Demelza and urged people to “get involved.”
Four year old Stanley presented him with a print of a picture painted by one of the children who use Demelza as well as some presents for his sons.
Chris was taken on a tour of the 10 bedded facility in Sittingbourne and also posed for photographs with staff, children and families and signed autographs.
The visit also coincided with Demelza’s Go Dotty week where schools, companies and individuals wear dots or do something dotty to raise funds and awareness during national Children’s Hospice Week. Dotty, the new mascot, also got a chance to meet Chris and some of the children.
Demelza also marks its 15th birthday this year with 12 months of celebration including the Demelza Run at Leeds Castle on Sunday 22nd September, a special birthday open day at the Kent hospice on Saturday 28th September and ends with a Sittingbourne to Paris bike ride in April 2014.