‘Grant would help sustain the vital work of our charity’

‘Grant would help sustain the vital work of our charity’

THE founder of a Warwick charity for children with terminal and life-limiting illnesses has welcomed the Chancellor’s financial support which, she says, she hopes will help sustain their vital work during the pandemic.

Molly Olly’s Wishes was established in 2011 following the death of Rachel and Tim Ollerenshaw’s eight-year-old daughter Molly from a rare kidney cancer.

The Hatton Park-based charity helps with the emotional wellbeing of the children and their families as well as granting wishes and donating therapeutic toys and books to both children directly and to hospitals throughout the UK.

It is estimated more than £120,000 in proceeds will be lost to their coffers with fundraising events wiped from the calendar due to COVID-19 for at least the next three months.

Molly Olly’s founder Rachel Ollerenshaw with charity mascot Olly The Brave.

At a recent Government daily news conference, Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled a generous UK support package worth £750m, including a dedicated £370m for small local charities.

He has also pledged to match pound for pound the proceeds from the BBC’s new Big Night In charitable appeal on April 23rd.

In his latest live speech to the nation, Mr Sunak said: “Some charities provide critical services to support the vulnerable people and communities. For them, shutting up shop at this moment would be to contravene their very purpose, their entire reason to exist. Those charities have never been more needed than they are now and they’ve never faced such a sudden fall in their funding.

“Some £370m of the funding will support small local charities working with vulnerable people. We all know who they are, those small charities in our village, our market towns, in pockets of our cities, the unsung heroes looking after the vulnerable and holding together our social fabric.

“At this time when many are hurting, tired and confined, we need the gentleness of charities in our lives. It gives us hope, it makes us stronger and it reminds us that we depend on each other.”

Rachel Ollerenshaw is still awaiting confirmation that her charity qualifies for the grant but said: “We welcome the announcement by the UK Government. Large and small charities work together to improve the lives of children and the virus does not make these children any less vulnerable.

“Sometimes the work of smaller charities can be overlooked and thought to be less significant. However, from our experience and knowing the work that other small charities do, our belief is that we are all part of a larger jigsaw here to help support vulnerable children through extremely challenging times. We all have a value and often the nature of smaller more personal charities with more direct contact can be hugely beneficial and help support the work of the larger, national charities. The flatter structure of the smaller charities can help decisions be made faster.”

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Molly Ollerenshaw just a few weeks before she passed away, aged eight.

Having gained its charity status in 2012, Molly Olly’s has so far helped more than 2,000 children from new-born to age 18 by granting individual wishes. They may take the form of equipment to help a child live day to day with their condition; an alternative therapy treatment to complement traditional medicine, or even a special occasion or day out.

Mascot of the charity is a therapeutic toy lion called Olly The Brave who has his own Hickman line and a detachable mane which helps to explain and normalise the effects of chemotherapy. These form part of an Olly The Brave pack that has now been handed out to more than 40 hospitals, along with a book from the charity’s exclusive Olly The Brave series.

There are now three books in the series, all written and illustrated by local author Diane Maybey.

Rachel added: “Molly Olly’s are continuing to support children with life- threatening illnesses at this extraordinary time through COVID-19 in a variety of ways. This is through our funding of the first Consultant in Paediatric Palliative Medicine based at Birmingham Children’s Hospital who cares for children both at the hospital and in the wider community. This post has been funded by Molly Olly’s for two years. It is also through our wish granting that provides everything from supermarket vouchers or toys that can be used to occupy or distract children whilst undergoing treatment.

“The charity is also currently working with the local community nursing teams to see if we can help widen the offer of support and information available to vulnerable children and their families at this time.

“Like so many other charities, Molly Olly’s have seen numerous fundraising activities cancelled that will lead to a large shortfall in our charitable donations and we are concerned about the long-term impact. The charity supports hundreds of children each year and has supported several key NHS projects since being founded in 2011.”

Some 30 children a week in the UK are given a cancer diagnosis, and more are told that they have a life-threatening or terminal illness in one form or another. Many of these, especially those diagnosed with leukaemia will be under five years old.

Warwick MP Matt Western is taking up the charity’s case. He said this week: “Local charities such as Molly Olly’s Wishes do fantastic work to support those who are in desperate need. Every member of the community is facing hardship due to the coronavirus outbreak, and charities are no exception.

“I welcome the Government’s announcement to provide financial support to charities to ensure they can maintain their survival during and beyond this crisis. However, we are currently lacking in detail, and many organisations doubt that the funding available will be enough.

“I sincerely hope (and will be pushing for) local charities such as Molly Olly’s Wishes will receive their fair share.”

Rachel Ollerenshaw added: “While we look into this funding, these remain worrying and uncertain times and we need, more than ever, to pull together and support the most vulnerable. If everyone reading this made a small donation it could make a big difference.”

Further information about Molly Olly’s Wishes or details of how to donate can be found at: www.mollyolly.co.uk or contact Rachel on 07747 854914.

CORONAVIRUS: Local businesses salvage hen weekend for intensive care doctor

CORONAVIRUS: Local businesses salvage hen weekend for intensive care doctor

LOCAL businesses have answered the plea to surprise a young frontline NHS doctor who was forced to cancel her wedding and hen weekend after two years in the planning.

Melissa Hood and Mat Park, who have lived in Warwick for six years since meeting at Birmingham University, were devastated to learn they’d have to call off their big day in Tuscany, Italy, on May 25th.

COVID-19, Coronavirus, Flamenco, Tasca Dali,
Melissa Hood and Mat Park take delivery of their Spanish five-course taster menu and wine from Tasca Dali.

But unbeknown to the bride – and determined not to let COVID-19 completely ruin the celebrations – her five bridesmaids reached out to local businesses from 200 miles away in Melissa’s home town of Newcastle, to cook up a series of special surprises for the couple.

And on Sunday they took in a steady stream of deliveries including food, drink and pamper treats. Central to the celebration was a five-course feast and wine courtesy of Tasca Dali Spanish restaurant in High Street, Warwick.

Other arrivals included complimentary cocktails from The Square and even a temporary hot tub from Lovely Tubbly, both businesses based in Warwick.

Twenty-eight-year-old Melissa, who works in ICU at Warwick Hospital, said: “It’s been the perfect storm of everything happening together like the wedding being cancelled, not being able to see family and this intense time at work.

“Mat and I were both gutted about the wedding. We felt bitter, upset and angry, almost like you’re mourning something. But when it started to become apparent how serious the pandemic was and you hear stories from other people in worse situations, you feel guilty for being upset because we’ve got it good compared to a lot of people.

“We started to look at rescheduling it for next year but because two of our bridesmaids and my dad are all teachers we are quite restricted. It has to be in the summer holidays.”

She added: “I’m so lucky to have such thoughtful and kind best friends. I feel humbled. It’s really taken me aback. We’ve been there for each other over the years but this has really brought home how much I love and miss them.”

“They managed to keep all the plans very quiet. I didn’t even know where the hen weekend was going to be. A lot of planning had gone into it and I was very excited about it but I’m so touched by their kindness and the kindness of these local businesses.”

COVID-19, Coronavirus, Flamenco, Tasca Dali

The makeshift hen party plans have been led by bridesmaid, and friend since school, Anna Gardner, who said: “Melissa is working so hard on the front line as a doctor, with her annual leave for the time being postponed, and all of her wedding dreams turned upside down. We wanted to show them both how much we love them and appreciate everything Melissa is doing for the NHS.

“We wanted to do something special for Melissa on what should have been her hen weekend, as we know how much she was looking forward to it.

“It was hard to think what we could do as us bridesmaids are in Newcastle, so I thought I would post a message in a group I found on Facebook and straight away I got messages, shares on the posts and offers of support, it’s been lovely and has brought some joy to a really hard time.”

The owner of award-winning Spanish restaurant Tasca Dali, Alex Clayton, said: “When I heard about Melissa and Mat’s story I was delighted to be able to do my bit to make their day special with a delivery of Tasca Dali’s delicious five-course taster menu, plus a bottle of wine.

Alex, who also owns Flamenco Spanish Restaurant in West Street, added: “Melissa is among our local frontline NHS team working so hard to protect us against the worst effects of this pandemic and, even though it is challenging times for the hospitality business, this is something I wanted to do, to say thanks.”

Dawn Blakemore, co-owner of Lovely Tubbly in Warwick, who arranged free hot tub hire for the day, said: “I really felt for Melissa. As if being a doctor in these times wasn’t challenging enough – and we sure appreciate the NHS now more than ever – we wanted to play our part in helping to give her a special day.”

COVID-19, Coronavirus, Flamenco, Tasca Dali
Richard Barrett-Constantinou prepares the cocktails from The Square outside Melissa’s front door.

Richard Barrett-Constantinou, who runs The Square in Warwick with his sister Joanna, said: “We provided some cocktails, a bottle of fizz and beers for Matt too so they could enjoy a private hen/stag party together and both feel special.”

Despite the huge disappointments, every shift in ICU acts as a reminder to Melissa, 28, to count her blessings as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to tighten its grip on communities. But she is also quick to reassure.

“It is a very intensive environment because we’re waiting for the full storm to hit. But there has been a lot of planning and preparation gone in to trying to make things as safe as possible and lots of rearranging of the hospital.

“For me, actually, the most important thing is for those people who are genuinely sick with other medical problems that are not COVID related, like chest pains or stroke, not to be scared to go to hospital because of COVID, because they still need medical attention. I have noticed a significant difference in numbers and it does worry me.”

She added: “There’s been a lot of talk about lack of PPE but I haven’t had a problem with it personally. A lot of work has been put into amending the rota so that we minimise exposure. The hospital is looking after us and we are being well supported.

“It is very touching to hear the clapping every week and we’ve been receiving lots of donations of food and cake from the public.”

COVID-19, Coronavirus, Flamenco, Tasca Dali
Melissa and Mat link up for a remote celebration with the bridesmaids.

Throughout it all, Melissa says she manages to keep herself grounded with regular running and Mat’s support. And, despite the pressure on her profession, still looks forward to making a difference every day.

“I’m actually really grateful that I’m able to do this job. Despite all the sadness, it’s given me the opportunity to do what I came into this profession for and help people. It’s rewarding work.”

Melissa says she is looking forward to being able to visit her friends and family again after lockdown. But in the meantime, her overriding message is a familiar one.

“I want to say thank you to everybody for adhering to the lockdown measures. We all know it’s really hard but what they’re doing by being at home is really important and we are so grateful. We can see every day that it is making a difference.”

Twenty-nine-year-old Mat, who is working from home as a purchasing controller, said: “I do worry about her but Melissa is so keen to get in. She really does love her job. I’m here to support her to make sure it’s as easy as possible at home so she can do everything she can at work. I’m very proud of her. I stand outside and clap every Thursday much to Melissa’s embarrassment. To see her go off and make a real difference does make you feel proud. It’s really good they’re getting the recognition they deserve.

“I just hope it’s not just a World Cup for the NHS but that everyone will always remember this period and realise what they do all day, every day and every week of the year. Hopefully long term there will be more of an awareness and an appreciation for the best healthcare service in the world.”

CORONAVIRUS: A stitch in time to save lives

CORONAVIRUS: A stitch in time to save lives

THE make do and mend spirit is coming to the fore in the battle against the coronavirus thanks to a community initiative aimed at offering direct to help NHS workers on the front line.

It takes the form of a new group called Warwickshire Scrubbers which has expanded quickly to beyond 650 members, ranging from 14-year-olds working on sewing projects through to retired seamstresses, fashion sewers and lots of older shielding ladies who are relishing the chance to ‘give back’. They are all working to make scrubs, scrub caps, headbands and laundry bags, and distributing them to hospital teams across the county.

This comes following a requirement for staff to wear scrubs instead of their usual uniform due to pandemic guidelines.

Warwickshire Scrubbers, COVID-19, Coronavirus, pandemic
Doctors and consultants take delivery at The University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire.

Deliveries are being made to Warwick Hospital as well as St Cross in Rugby, George Eliot Hospital north of the county in Nuneaton and University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire as well as Harbury and Chase Meadow Surgeries which have received scrubs packs.

For those not handy with a needle, there are plenty of other roles they can play such as driving to help with non-contact deliveries and collections.

Coordinator for the Hatton and Warwick area, Rachel Booth, said: “We can see this huge need to protect the NHS and healthcare workforce and this was a way we as sewers, fabric artists and small craft businesses can contribute. We are also being helped out by bigger businesses with fabric at great prices or donated, fundraising donations or fabric cutting en masse. Everyone can help.

“I have been amazed at the responses we have had from people, especially those being shielded wanting to do something to help. The desire to assist the NHS to keep staff safe and save lives is very strong. It’s giving people purpose at a very strange time where we have had a lot of structure taken away from us – jobs, business, schools, shopping etc.”

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Rachel Booth with some of her creations. Photo by www.littlebeanies.co.uk

“This is community spirit in action at a difficult time. People really are being amazing in their support. The demand is huge but we will continue making these things for as long as need to.”

Online fundraising appeals are also running alongside the practical support, already raising more than £9,000 to help meet costs of materials in the Coventry and south Warwickshire areas.

Abigail Sheridan de Graff, who is helping to coordinate the south Warwickshire appeal, said: “Due to Covid-19 a lot more scrubs are being required than usual. South Warwickshire Foundation Trust is trying to get three sets of scrubs per staff member.

“We have plenty of people who are willing to make scrubs but there is a cost involved to cover materials, printing patterns and distribution of resources. Any money raised goes solely towards helping make items required by staff in the NHS hospitals and other frontline healthcare providers.

“Any donations, big or small, are greatly appreciated and will make a really big difference to the daily lives of the NHS and other healthcare staff.”

To find out more about how to help contact Rachel at: Rachel@creativestamper.co.uk

Visit: https://www.gofundme.com/f/nhs-needs-scrubs? to donate for south Warwickshire and www.facebook.com/donate/1453479231480601/ to donate for Rugby and Coventry.

CORONAVIRUS: Restaurateur launches emergency Care Packages in response to virus

CORONAVIRUS: Restaurateur launches emergency Care Packages in response to virus

AS WELL as pledging to continue serving his customers during the Coronavirus lockdown, an award-winning restaurateur has gone one step further to help.

Alex Clayton, who owns Spanish restaurants Flamenco and Tasca Dali in Warwick, is launching Care Packages, including cleaning and food shopping services.

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Alex Clayton outside Flamenco in West Street.

While available to everyone, the new pick and mix-style packages have been designed to particularly support the elderly and vulnerable who are being asked by the government to self-isolate for three months.

From Monday, food can be ordered by all customers direct from the restaurant as well as through Uber Eats – with free delivery in Warwick.

But vulnerable members of society can also take advantage of weekly cleans being organised by Alex, as well as a free grocery shopping delivery.

An additional 10% discount is being offered on any orders for the Over 70s and for NHS staff (with ID).

Alex said: “As a local business that provides amazing food and service to those who live nearby, we want to give back as much as we can to people in these trying times and for that reason we are now offering a full delivery service so people can still enjoy our food from home.

“We are trying to adapt in a complex environment and help those loyal customers who have supported us over the years.”

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Alex Clayton at Tasca Dali in High Street.

Alex is also quick to reassure people that strict hygiene measures have been implemented at both Flamenco in West Street and Tasca Dali in High Street.

“In this time when there is much worry about the effects of COVID19, I would just like to reassure everyone that at Flame’nCo and Tasca Dali, we follow a strict cleaning regime disinfecting all tables before and after use as well as all cutlery, glassware and plates. We go above and beyond current WHO guidelines.”

He added: “In addition, many of our tables in Tasca have copper tops which have strong anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. The air in our restaurants is filtered via a UV recirculation filter which is the same technology as that used in hospitals. We also have reduced the maximum capacity of the restaurant by 50% so that there is plenty of space between diners.

“I am personally here to look after you. We have been here now seven years, were awarded Best Spanish Restaurant of The Year and I do hope, with your support, we shall be here another seven years at least!”

Flamenco, Tasca Dali, Alex Clayton, Warwick, Coronavirus
Paella is among the favourite dishes included on the new fast track takeaway menu.

In a further measure to try and sustain business, customers are being encouraged to support the restaurants by buying gift vouchers. As an incentive, a 10% discount is also being offered on all vouchers purchased until April 30th.

Visit: https://flamencowarwick.com and www.tascadali.com for further information. Visit https://flamencowarwick.com/uber-eats-menu for the takeaway menu. Visit: https://www.tascadali.com/takeaway-homecare for the Care Package and visit: https://flamencowarwick.com/covid19 for full Covid-19 for full hygiene statement.

Official WHO (World Health Organisation) guidance on Coronavirus is available at: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public