A bereaved dad whose little girl died last year at the Little Harbour children’s hospice in St Austell is taking on a cycling challenge to raise funds for the hospice.
Stuart Veal, from St Ives, is part of ‘Team Lia’ who will be taking part in the ‘Ride for Precious Lives’ challenge in July in memory and celebration of his daughter Lia, who passed away peacefully at Little Harbour in April 2013 when she was just 11 years old.
Lia was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2012 and underwent surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and stem cell treatment. Lia unfortunately developed a secondary tumour which meant that her time was very limited. Lia and her family were then referred to the St Austell hospice run by Children’s Hospice South West.
When thinking back to their first visit to Little Harbour, dad Stuart said: “Lia and our son Cody fell in love with it straight away. Even though both quite shy in new situations they both felt at ease with the staff enough to disappear and explore.”
Stuart added that he and his wife Paul were a little more reserved, knowing the reason for the visit, but they were “amazed” by the facilities and made welcome by the staff.
Little Harbour supports families whose children suffer with life limiting or life threatening illnesses. The team work hard to understand the complex needs and emotions of all members of the families and do their best to help families have special times together making precious memories that they will treasure into the future.
Stuart said: “The next two visits we stayed for a few days and Lia and Cody were always excited, they loved being there. Lia felt safe at Little Harbour and Cody could have fun and had people to spend time with him.
“It was during one of these visits that the care team organised Little Harbour’s first ‘onesie party’ for Lia and a few of her closest friends and her cousin, giving them the opportunity to see for themselves where Lia was staying and for them to see that it is a happy, fun place.
“All the staff got involved with decorating the hospice, creating a magical fairy feel, baking cupcakes, organising games and crafts and, of course, wearing their onesies.”
Little Harbour is there for families in a variety of ways. Families can visit for respite stays and palliative care, the hospice can also accommodate emergency stays – this may be a medical emergency or an emergency within the family or the home and families can also go to Little Harbour for end of life care and bereavement support.
Unfortunately the family’s next visit to the hospice was not such a happy one. Lia was rushed into Little Harbour when her condition suddenly deteriorated. Four days later she peacefully passed away, with Stuart, Paula, Cody and Karen, her CLIC Nurse by her side.
Stuart said: “Without the staff at the hospice I don’t know how we would have managed that week, we barely left Lia’s side, but knew that Cody was safe and being looked after. We were looked after too, which allowed us to be with Lia and just think about being Mum and Dad. Without Little Harbour that wouldn’t have been possible. Little Harbour still support us now, keeping in contact, helping all three of us through this very difficult time.”
It was the time that the family spent at Little Harbour and the support they were, and continued to be, offered that inspired Stuart to fundraise for the charity.
“After Lia passed away I knew that I had to do something to try and help Little Harbour, to make it possible for them to help another family like mine. I told some close friends my plan to do the Ride for Precious Lives – Mark, Ian, Steve, Matt and Dave, most having close links with Lia, her godfather, her best friend’s dad, cousin (Lia even sent one of them a kiss in the post) so these five chaps decided to join me.
“The six of us made a plan to raise the money. With the support and help from our families and with the memory of my precious Lia, we will be riding the 200 plus miles in support of this very worthy local charity, Children’s Hospice South West.”
The ride is happening between July 11 and 13 and will cover 210 miles, starting in Cornwall at Little Harbour and visiting CHSW’s two other children’s hospices, Little Bridge House in North Devon and Charlton Farm in Bristol along the way. Others can take part by visiting www.chsw.org.uk/ride-for-precious-lives or calling Little Harbour on 01726 871800.
To make a donation to the hospice through ‘Team Lia’ visit http://www.justgiving.com/teamLia