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15 March 2021

WellChild’s vision is for every child and young person living with serious health needs to have the chance to be supported at home. CEO Colin Dyer explains why The Jockey Club’s decision to use The Cheltenham Festival to help couldn’t be better timed.

As Chief Executive of WellChild, the national charity for sick children, my office is right in the heart of Cheltenham and overlooks the joyous chaos which The Festival brings to the town every year. And like many other people, it is the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Royal Ascot, The Derby, and memories of Red Rum in the Grand National that had been my only real links to racing until recently.

That started to change a few years ago when the racing community began to throw its support behind one of the fundraising events which are so important to a voluntary-funded charity such as ours – the Ed Chamberlin Golf Classic hosted by our amazing Ambassador.

The warmth and generosity of the racing community through that event, and consequently elsewhere, has really helped with funding the support we give children, young people and families – something that is now more crucial than ever before.

Needless stays in hospital

WellChild is here for the most seriously ill children and young people in our communities, and those with the most complex care needs.  The charity’s vision is for every child and young person living with serious health needs to have the best chance to thrive – properly supported at home with their families. More than 100,000 children and young people are living across the UK with serious health needs and many spend way too long in hospital simply because there is not enough support enabling them to leave. For families already at home, their ability to keep their children safe is constantly challenged by inadequate levels of training and support.

WellChild addresses these issues in many ways. We have funded almost 50 WellChild Nurses working in communities all over the UK, created training centres for parents, carry out home improvement projects almost every week, and have an online support network (our Family Tree) with thousands and thousands of members – but there is so much still to do.

Hardest fundraising environment

During the Covid-19 pandemic, those thousands of families were left more vulnerable and more isolated than ever. Within 10 days of the first lockdown, WellChild had created a Covid Direct Response Service, which has organised food and medicine deliveries, published guidance viewed close to 100,000 times, distributed 300,000 items of PPE to allow families to have care professionals back in their homes, and worked hard to ensure good mental health for exhausted parents.

Demand for our support services is at an all-time high in what could be the hardest fundraising environment we have seen, which is why The Jockey Club’s vision in using The Festival to help couldn’t be better timed.

Impact already fantastic

The opportunity simply to spread the WellChild message far and wide will help us bring new families into the charity’s support services. The traditional, online and social media coverage of the partnership is already fantastic, and we haven’t even reached Festival week yet and the broadcast TV coverage that will bring.

All that media activity will also give thousands if not millions of people the chance to learn more about our work and how they can get involved by donating even the smallest amount to help us reach and support more children and families. Everything we are doing is at and it may be a cliché but absolutely everything, no matter how small, really does help.

So roll on The Festival and, it still feels odd to be calling it this, The WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup! I’ve already admitted my limited racing knowledge but with Sir AP McCoy as a WellChild Ambassador alongside Ed Chamberlin, I think I’ll definitely be cheering on Champ.

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