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Sir Michael Parkinson and Maidenhead MP Theresa May pulled on their wellies to start building Berkshire’s children’s hospice on Wednesday, September 23.They joined Fiona and John Devine, their family, VIPs, supporters, donors and volunteers for the Ground Breaking ceremony at the site in Snowball Hill, near Maidenhead. Specialist aerial photographer Paulo Coll, of Maidenhead-based Alta Vista, used a drone to capture fascinating images of the site and the Ground Breaking ceremony. Builders Beard Construction marked out the site of the new children’s hospice – the first in Berkshire – which can be clearly seen in Paulo’s images.
Sir Michael Parkinson, Founder Patron of Alexander Devine Children’s Hospice Service, told guests: “This is a very special moment. I remember meeting Fiona and John in the beginning and thinking ‘This will never happen!’. Then she was very shy, frail in a sense, and no wonder given what she and John had been through. What Fiona and John have created here is something that should have been done many years ago. The hospice you will see here in the coming years will be for parents and children in desperate need, Fiona and John can be very, very proud. This is the beginning of the end of the first chapter, there are many more chapters to come, we still need lots of money to open the hospice and lots of money to keep it going.”
Theresa May, a patron of Alexander Devine Children’s Hospice Service and in whose constituency the hospice will be, said: “The sad fact is that Fiona and John’s story shows we need a children’s hospice, so many families are going through similar circumstances.
Although Fiona and John’s aim was always to build the hospice it hasn’t just been about the building, over the years we have already seen many families given support by the Alexander’s Care Team. The hospice building is going to be a reality and will be providing essential support to local families. Thank you to Fiona and John for having that vision. It’s a great day, you must be very proud.”
Fiona Devine thanked Sir Michael and Mrs May, the Royal Borough Mayor Cllr Dee Quick, and all the supporters and volunteers. But she gave special thanks to her husband, John, and their children, Harry and Caitlin, saying: “They are always hiding behind the scenes, they have a crazy life with their mum but they never complain. I hope they are as proud of their big brother as I am today.
“Thank you to my mum and to my sister, Debbie, who was Alexander’s second mummy, when we were backwards and forwards to hospital, my sister Debbie was mummy to Caitlin too, to the extent she even called her mummy! And thank you to my dad who we lost three years ago. I know he would be immensely proud as well.”
In an emotional thank you to Alexander’s friends at the ceremony, Fiona said: “In Alexander’s short eight years he made friends who still support us. Alexander had a heart full of love, kindness, courage and fun. This hospice is Alexander’s living legacy.”
John Devine said: “Nine years ago Fiona and I had a vision, we experienced the need and we thought someone needed to make a difference. Today is a massive step on that journey.”
The six-bedroom hospice is expected to take 16-18 months to build. The fundraising target, launched in November 2013, was £5m. £3.9m has been raised so far with £1.1m still to raise for the cost of building it. CLICK HERE for images and plans.