Saturday, 27 April 2019 00:00

Donations to EACH shops soar during Dress Claire campaign

Written by  Michael Jarvis
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Donations to EACH shops soar during Dress Claire campaign

Dress Claire, a bold campaign to drive donations at East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH) shops across the region, has seen the charity benefit from an extra £30,000 worth of items compared to the same period last year.

In total across the two-week campaign, EACH received around 13,400 bags, representing a 30% spike from 2018.

Dress Claire saw lifesize cardboard cutouts of Claire Wright, 45, from Sutton, near Ely, partially hidden behind a board and greeting customers in all of EACH’s 37 shops.

Claire’s family received support from EACH when, in April 2012, her 16-month-old son, Jacob, sadly died from mitochondrial disease. The charity, in Claire’s words, “is a place where we can remember our beautiful boy, Jacob, with a tear and a smile. You never think you’ll be the one who needs EACH’s support, but when you do it’s something priceless”.

She has raised huge amounts of money and awareness for EACH since. Dress Claire began just days after the seventh anniversary of Jacob’s death.

Ian Nicolson, EACH Head of Retail and Trading, said: “We really can’t thank Claire enough for her willingness and enthusiasm to get involved. With nine shops having opened last year and two already in 2019, it now means we need over 6,000 bags of donations a week to keep our entire portfolio of 37 fully stocked and able to bring in the money we need to provide vital care and support for children, young people and family members. On that note, please may I urge everyone to continue being so generous, whether by donating items – we estimate one bag is worth around £10 on average – volunteering or simply shopping with us.”

Dress Claire built on a previous EACH donation drive, Dress Daisy, that asked people to help dress a naked dummy, Daisy, in shop windows. That saw a 16% spike in donations.

For the more recent campaign, Claire went to City College Norwich, when she enjoyed having her hair and makeup done by student Sophie Briggs, and photos taken by second-year photography students. She then met all the cutouts of herself, including her favourite photo of Jacob, at EACH’s Retail Distribution Centre in Thetford. With the help of another college student, Jess Beard, EACH produced a video showing that process. It can be viewed at www.each.org.uk/dressclaire.

As well as women’s and men’s clothes, bric-a-brac, books, toys, jewellery and other such items, EACH also needs donations of good-quality furniture and can collect it free of charge if you are unable to transport it yourself. Call 01842 821620 for more information.

To put into context the difference just a small donation to a shop can make to the vital work EACH does, here are some examples of what your donation could pay for:

-         A top, skirt or pair of trousers worth £5 could pay for art supplies for a session of art therapy

-         A tea set worth £11 could fund an hour of specialist play tailored to a child’s individual needs

-         A nice wedding hat or jacket worth £19 could pay for an hour of vital physiotherapy

-         An item of good-quality furniture or prom dress worth £24 could fund an hour with a psychologist to help guide and support families going through, likely, the toughest period of their lives

For more information about EACH and to find out where your nearest shop is, go to www.each.org.uk.

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Claire's Story

"In February 2012 our lives fell apart. We were told, after being very poorly for the last five months, our beautiful baby boy, Jacob, had a genetic disorder called mitochondrial disease. It had no treatment and no cure, and he would probably not see his second birthday. He was 14 months old.

There is not a word in the dictionary to describe the level of sadness and pain we felt right then, but other emotions we felt were confusion and loneliness. We knew we had to make every moment we had left count, but with this big dark abyss in front of us how could we go on?

That is when we got a lifeline. Our specialist nurse referred us to East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices. We were invited for a tour of our local hospice and as soon as we walked through those doors I felt love and hope. We discussed Jacob coming for a visit and were then asked if we had any questions. We had so many. What would it be like when he died? Would we have to leave him alone? How did you organise a funeral? They answered those and so many more, and we knew then we were no longer alone.

Sadly, Jacob never made it for that visit and died at 16 months in Addenbrooke’s Hospital. After his death, EACH gave us the option to take him directly to the hospice. I remember walking through those doors, my son in my arms and being taken into his room. We surrounded him with the things he loved, his duvet, pillow, teddies and books. We got to stay just a few short steps away, got to hold him, kiss him, and wash and dress him in his favourite pyjamas.

Those who loved him visited. Some did not come into his room, but they were there to support us. Some said goodbye and gave him final cuddles. Some came once, some came again and again. My nephew, who was nine, wanted to say goodbye. EACH staff helped his parents decide if it was the right thing. It was. He held his baby cousin’s hand, had a cuddle and asked if I would read them both a story. His final comment to us was ‘Is it always this lovely when someone dies?’

Jacob stayed at EACH until his funeral and we got to be parents ‘til the very end. I cannot imagine having to say goodbye to him any earlier.

The help of EACH does not end there. EACH provided us with counselling and support through our darkest days, helped us understand our grief and process it the best we can. They have given me the strength to be where I am today; they gave me the strength to go on. EACH cannot take the pain away, but they help us to live with it.

As a family we attend the EACH annual memory days. Some people may think it strange wanting to go back to the place Jacob spent those 10 days, days some might think were only filled with sadness and despair, but to me we have so many positive memories, too. It’s a place where we can remember our beautiful boy, with a tear and a smile.

You never think you will be the one needing EACH’s support, but when you do it is something that is priceless.

EACH cannot be there for families like ours without the vital support of the public, so as grateful as I will always be to EACH, I am also so grateful to its supporters.

It was not just us who needed support back then or now, and today EACH offers care and support to 374 children and young people, and 388 family members. These children and families come from across Cambridgeshire, Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk, and need our help.

That is why I would like to ask everyone to donate clothes or any other items EACH could sell in its shops. Without the support of the local community there is no EACH and without EACH, well, I dread to think.

Thank you so much for your support."

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Last modified on Monday, 20 May 2019 20:52

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