As the Post continues to mark Derian House’s 25th anniversary, Natalie Walker looks at how it all began.
When young Derek Haydock was suffering from a life threatening condition in the 1970s, his family struggled to find any dedicated respite or palliative support facility in Lancashire for children with life shortening illnesses.
Derek, who was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) when he was five, spent a lot of time at either Alder Hey or Royal Preston hospitals.
He died in 1969, aged 19, leaving a huge hole in his family’s life.
It was only years later, in 1991, after his mother, Iris, was diagnosed with cancer, that his brother, Ian, had an idea.
He wanted to start a fund-raising campaign to set up a hospice for children with life limiting conditions.
Ian, now 67, said: “I honestly think it was Derek who gave me the idea. It just came into my mind that I wanted to do this to help others.
“I was only nine when Derek was diagnosed and so I don’t remember much. But there was not the support that there is now.
“All the help and support had to come from the family.
“Derek went to Alder Hey, with a couple of visits to Royal Preston Hospital. The drive to Alder Hey used to take forever.
“We had to take him to the hospice and bring him home. It was the same routine, day in, day out.
“But with having a hospice, these children can stay there and have a good time, whilst their parents get a break.”
Derek’s care continued until he was 19, when he died.
Ian, who was 23 at the time, said there were no real support networks available, gaining solace from his family and work colleagues.
He said: “We just had to live our lives as normal.
“Then my mum became ill with cancer. She was ill for a few years and I felt it was history repeating itself.
“Then something came in my mind to do something. Mum had spurred me into action. I realised when I was going to hospital what help was needed and I thought about a children’s hospice. At the time, there was only one other children’s hospice in the country - Helen House, in Oxford.
“My dad, Robert, joined me and I had a word with my work colleagues at Preston Telecommunications and they gave me my first £100.
“I contacted the Lancashire Evening Post and also Red Rose Radio.
“The Post put a marvellous spread in the paper and the phone calls started coming in.
“We got a steering group together and we held weekly and fortnightly meetings at the RAF club in Leyland. Chorley and other places started to have steering committees. I found it a great relief when these committees came into fruition as I didn’t have to write as many letters and go to as many places.”
Ian and Robert, also known as Bob, approached Ed Wraith, a senior paediatrician at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital at Pendlebury, and Derek ’s consultant, for help and advice.
They also approached local professional and businesswoman, Margaret Vinten who set up a trust, of which she was the chairman and she used local media and her own network of contacts to recruit a team of trustees who were to remain with her for the next 18 years.
The board comprised of: Miss Vinten, Canon Smith, Douglas McMillan from KPMG, John Ward, a solicitor, Rick Thomas, a bank manager, Leo Duffy, a DIY retailer and Sheila Clarke, a paediatrician. The Bishop of Blackburn, Rt Rev Alan Chesters, became the patron.
Ian, who lives in Eccleston, added: “A couple of years went on and a board of trustees was set up. A big weight was lifted off my shoulders. I didn’t think it would take off as much as it did.
“I was going to schools, halls, functions and events almost every night.
I stepped back when I saw it was open and running. Sir Ken Dodd turned the first soil and then I saw it being built.
“I was at the opening and thought my work was done now because I had done what I wanted to achieve in honour of my brother.
“Unfortunately, mum didn’t get to see it as she died in 1992.
“Derek was an independent person and would never have wanted to go to a hospice, because back then, they didn’t have the facilities they have now.
“Derek would have loved Derian House.
“It gives families help and respite and the youngsters can join in the fun activities.
“Nearly every day I go past and I see new things. It is a wonderful place. I can only thank each and every one who has helped along the years.”
Margaret Vinten was a pivotal role in moving Ian and Bob’s dream forward.
She took over the helm, looking for a suitable site and after searching across Lancashire, she found the perfect location in Astley Village. As well as helping to design the hospice, she also oversaw the building work.
She was also the driving force behind the fund-raising campaign to raise capital for the project, recruiting the support of friends, benefactors, celebrities, companies and organisations throughout the region.
With their help, she succeeded in driving forward the highly successful capital appeal. The completed hospice, its name a combination of the Haydock brothers’ names Derek and Ian, was opened by the Duchess of Norfolk, Lavinia Fitzalan-Howard on October 11 1993.
Since then, the hospice has developed a partnership of care with families which is sensitive to the needs of the whole family in providing an approach to care and support as individual as they are.
With substantial developments in treatment techniques leading to extended life expectancy amongst teenagers and young adults, Miss Vinten began a fund-raising campaign in 2008 to raise money to build Derian Lodge.
Two years later, the Lodge opened, providing accommodation for teenagers and young adults from 16 to 26 years of age.
Miss Vinten stepped down as chairman in 2011 but she still takes an active interest in the hospice and has been named lifetime President.
She was also recognised in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list in 2012, receiving an MBE for her years of service to Derian House.
She said: “In 1991, when I was first asked to get involved, the initial fund-raising team had raised £25,000.
“Making that vision a reality was quite a challenge, but with phenomenal support from the local community we were able to achieve our ambition within two years.
“Thanks to the ongoing support of local volunteers, fund-raisers, businesses and celebrities our doors have remained open ever since.
“One of my proudest achievements is the creation of Derian Lodge, catering for young adults aged between 16 and 26 years which opened in 2010.
“More recently we are in the final stage of our new development, Vinten Place, a facility separate to the hospice which provides space for families to visit in a more relaxed environment.
“In common with many charities, Derian House has faced a challenging time over the past 12 months, but we are determined to continue to deliver the best possible care for our children and their families whilst creating a stable working environment.
“Over the years, Derian House has built a reputation for setting exceptionally high standards in children’s hospice care and for creating one of the most cost effective fund-raising teams of any children’s charity within the UK.
“This year the hospice needs to raise £3.95m to continue its work.
“We are determined that this target will be achieved, but it can only be done with ongoing support from our local communities.
“We are continually elated and humbled by the efforts people go to in raising funds and I assure you that every penny raised for Derian House is spent wisely and for the benefit of our children and their families.”