As the year draws to a close, we have an opportunity to reflect on the year past and remember the year that was. 2022 was a special year, a year marked by coming together again and celebrating milestone events in the ‘real-world’.
2022 was a busy year for our services and LauraLynn is now caring for and supporting more children and families than ever before. During the year we have seen a 100% increase nationally in referrals accepted to our services and we have reached more children who need us.
The year brought so many of us back together, but it was also a year that posed lots of challenges with the devastating war in Ukraine among those. As care providers of children with complex medical and life-limiting conditions, we were greatly impacted by reports of similar children in Ukrainian hospitals being cared for in bunkers, and others being transferred by private cars to children’s hospitals in Poland and other neighbouring countries. We saw it as our duty to assist and offer support in any way we could and supported those children and families by sourcing supplies and working collaboratively with colleagues in the acute setting to support any children and families fleeing the war who required hospice care and supports.
We kicked off the year with our Thank You Week Campaign in January where we took the opportunity to thank all our donors, supporters, staff and volunteers for their unwavering support and dedication throughout 2021. In February we started our quest for accreditation for our hospice service and engaged with CHKS Accreditation and Quality Assurance. We set high standards for our services, and we were delighted to receive positive feedback. We were found to be 97% compliant on the first attempt and strive towards achieving full accreditation soon. We also had a very successful HIQA inspection for our disability services in January with positive feedback across the board.
In February we celebrated Valentine’s Day with some arts and crafts and lots of baking in our hospice followed soon after in March with more celebrations for St Patrick’s Day. This year we held a St Patrick’s Day parade, and we welcomed some Irish Dancers to join in the fun. In April we launched the McKenna Scholarship and opened the programme for applications.
May is always a busy month for LauraLynn and this year was no different. We started the month off with the return of our Heroes Ball. The Heroes Ball is one of our biggest fundraising events of the year and we were delighted to host this special night again after two years of disruption due to the pandemic. Hosted by our Patron Miriam O’Callaghan, the Ball raised over €100,000. We’d like to thank Miriam, Alan Shortt, who ran a hugely successful auction for us on the night, and all who attended and supported this event. The highlight of the night was an incredible surprise performance from Riverdance who partnered with LauraLynn as they celebrated their return to the Gaiety Theatre for their 25th Anniversary Show.
Children’s Hospice Week was back in full swing in May. The theme of the week focused around ‘Little Moments...Big Impact’ with an advertising campaign running across the country in conjunction with a radio ad campaign and lots of media engagement and PR. Children’s Hospice Week is an important week for LauraLynn as it’s the only year in the week dedicated to raising awareness and funds for children’s hospice and palliative care.
Our ambassador, Nicola Coughlan, raffled off her Derry Girl’s Warp Jacket as part of Children’s Hospice Week raising over €20,000. Media highlights throughout the week included a special report on Nationwide, a radio package on Newstalk and some widespread regional radio coverage. The month of May also seen the launch of our new Cork Service and Marie Lynch joined the team as Regional Hub Team Lead for the Cork service. We launched a special partnership with Riverdance as the world-renowned dance troupe chose LauraLynn as their charity partner for their 25th Anniversary year.
As part of our partnership with Riverdance, LauraLynn benefited from their annual Danceathon which took place outside the Gaiety Theatre in June. A very special addition to the partnership included a parent-led project which seen four LauraLynn mums train with the cast of Riverdance over several weeks culminating in a once in a lifetime performance on stage in the Gaiety Theatre with the entire cast of Riverdance. This incredible collaboration rounded off our partnership on a high with over €30,000 raised.
Our Adult Disability Service, Willow View, introduced a Rights Committee during 2022, established to ensure we have a rights driven approach to supporting each individual. The committee aims to support each individual to have increased community participation including things like going on holidays, attending festivals and enjoying shows. In our Children’s Disability Service, Hazel House, there was an increase in the numbers of children and families being supported for respite and refurbishments to create single bedrooms and a new sensory room was started.
We celebrated together in August with the return of our staff and volunteer BBQ in the LauraLynn gardens and some of our children and families enjoyed the return of our Family Camps in August. Renovation works in Hazel House commenced in August with the unit undergoing extensive revamping and renovations.
In September we supported the All-Ireland Institute of Hospice and Palliative Care as they rolled out their annual Palliative Care Week campaign. We were honoured to represent LauraLynn and children’s palliative care at the launch of the campaign where were met with the Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, at Government buildings. Eoghan Dunne and his family, who avail of our services, got the opportunity to meet the Taoiseach and took part in a photocall to launch the campaign. As part of the week, LauraLynn, also took part in a campaign video to highlight the importance of children’s palliative care which focused on ‘living’ and living life to the full. As part of the video, we shone a spotlight on our unique Family Camps, which enable families to come to LauraLynn for a special stay and enjoy the little moments together. A big thank you to the Smith family for sharing their story as part of the campaign and also to our Senior Occupational Therapist, Anna Brown, who leads our Family Camps, for taking part also.
After nine years dedicated service on the Board, including being Chairperson for the last six years, Niall McHugh stepped down from the role of Chairperson in June and from the Board in September. I would like to thank Niall for all of his hard work and dedication to LauraLynn during those years. I was delighted to step into the role of Chairperson and feel very honored to be the first female to hold this prestigious title.
We celebrated with our colleagues and volunteers during our Staff and Volunteer Appreciation Awards in September. We were joined by our ambassador Ray D’Arcy for this special evening, honouring all our staff and volunteers with awards for those who have been with LauraLynn for five years or more.
We welcomed lots of special guests to LauraLynn during September with a special visit from the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris. Minister Harris joined us at LauraLynn to welcome the establishment of The McKenna Scholarship and appoint the inaugural McKenna Scholar, Wicklow native, Elaine Brennan. The establishment of the McKenna Scholar marked an important step in our commitment to grow and invest in the area of children’s palliative care and continue to grow the knowledge base in this area. We also welcomed our supporter, Mairead Ronan, who helped us launch an exciting campaign with our partners in WEEE Ireland.
September is also a month of celebration in LauraLynn as our birthday is in September and this year we marked our 11th birthday with lots of cakes and treats while also taking time to reflect on the growth and accomplishments of our services over the last 11 years.
We came together with our bereaved families during September as we held our annual Memorial Walk in the Phoenix Park. It was wonderful to be able to come together for this special event this year and remember and honour all the children who are no longer with us.
We donned our black-tie attire in October as we stepped out for the fifth LauraLynn Oscars. This incredible project involves our families collaborating with industry professionals to script, write and star in their very own movie. The project culminates in a once-in-a-lifetime red-carpet screening event at the Odeon Cinema in Charlestown. A huge congratulations to all six of our Oscar winners this year and thank you to everyone involved in making this truly wonderful project and event happen.
We launched an exciting partnership in October with Rugby Players Ireland, the representative body for professional rugby players in Ireland, partnering with us for the year ahead. The partnership aims to shine a light on children’s palliative care and showcase how it can stretch so far beyond medical care, it’s about living, it’s full of colour, laughter, and joy and LauraLynn is a place that families can make the most of every little moment. To kick start the partnership we held two fully inclusive rugby games with some of the Ireland players and LauraLynn families. The first event was held in LauraLynn in Dublin followed by another in Cork with our cork-based families. The LauraLynn Legends came out on top in both games! We would like to thank Rugby Players Ireland for all of their support and for making ‘little moments’ happen for so many in our community of care.
October is also spooky season, this year we held our inaugural Halloween Parade at LauraLynn and we were joined by a very special Parade Marshall – Mr Ryan Tubridy. We would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to Ryan for sprinkling some added magic to this fun afternoon. The school of Engineering students from Technological University Dublin were once again on hand this year to create wheelchair accessible costumes for some of the children who avail of LauraLynn’s care. This collaborative process with TUD has led to some tremendously creative finished looks. No matter a child's level of mobility, LauraLynn’s aim is that children and families are inspired and feel included by these amazing and creative wheelchair costumes. The children got to show off their costumes during our parade.
We held one of our wonderful Family Camps in October, Family Camps are a residential experience for the entire family with a range of activities taking place specifically for the needs of the child, parents and siblings. We were delighted to hold these camps again and welcome families to LauraLynn for them.
November is a month of both celebration and reflection in LauraLynn which culminates in our annual tree lighting ceremony, Light Up LauraLynn. We were overjoyed to bring this event back in the real-world this year after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic. Our event this year was bigger and better than ever with lots of festive fun and cheer throughout the afternoon for our families. In order to keep numbers lower and keep our families safe, we restricted this event to families only, but we hope to be able to celebrate with the wider community next year. A special thank you to our partners, Verve The Live Agency, for their immense support with this event and a big thank you to our ambassador Ray D’Arcy who was on MC duties and to all who performed at the event and supported it. It was heart-warming to have all our families back at LauraLynn to celebrate and reflect at this special time of year.
We had the opportunity to star in the Late Late Toy Show in November and cameras from RTÉ filmed some of our children and families at our hospice. A big thank you to the Toy Show Team for making dreams come through for some of our children and their families.
In keeping with Remembrance Month, we held a webinar as part of Grief Awareness Week in November focused on the topic of grief in children with life-limiting conditions. The webinar was greatly received by lots of professionals working in the sector.
Our Christmas Appeal landed in November and was fronted by the wonderful McCormack Family who shared the story of their beautiful little girl, Grace, who lived for just 18 days during which time the family were supported by LauraLynn. We would like to send our heartfelt thank you to Grace’s mum, Sharon, and all her family for sharing their story and helping us to raise awareness and funds this Christmas.
December was an exciting month for LauraLynn as we marked the official opening of our Cork Service with a photocall with Taoiseach, Micheál Martin and 10-year-old Emily McSweeney and her family from Cork who benefit from LauraLynn’s service. We were honoured to meet with the Taoiseach to thank him for his support and support of his government. We also shared with him about our Cork Service and the important work it is doing bringing specialised care and support closer to home for families like the Mcsweeny's across Cork and Kerry. In the Cork and Kerry region, referrals have surged by 100% since news of the opening of the new service was announced in the summer. Since then, more than 129 home visits and 328 hours of care have been delivered by the team of five Nurses and one Music Therapist. It’s an exciting time as the team is set to grow further in 2023.
The AMBA & BGA Excellence Awards took place in December 2022 in London with our CEO, Kerry McLaverty, receiving an award for MBA Leadership. The Awards which feature ten categories brings together the leading lights of the global business education community to celebrate excellence among Business Schools, students, graduates, suppliers, and employers that share AMBA & BGA’s values of ambition, impact and integrity. The awards recognise the great work of the graduates through their achievements, performance and recognition. Congratulations to Kerry on this wonderful achievement.
As part of our ongoing partnership with Rugby Players Ireland, some of the players from across the provinces took part in Dip In for LauraLynn raising much needed funds and awareness. We would like to thank Rugby Players Ireland and our ambassador Garry Ringrose for leading this event and to all who braved the elements across a chilly weekend in December.
Our Christmas Gifting initiative took place again in December with our children and families across the country receiving special Christmas gifts hand-delivered by our wonderful team of LauraLynn Elves! Thank you to all the amazing LauraLynn staff and volunteers for helping to bring a smile to our LauraLynn children and families faces this December.
It’s been a busy year for LauraLynn but one filled with so many ‘little moments’ of joy and we look forward to many more special moments in the year ahead.
Finally, I would like to again thank you – our families, staff, volunteers, Ambassadors, fundraisers, supporters and donors for all that you do for LauraLynn and extend our warmest Christmas wishes to each of you and wishing you all a happy and healthy 2023.
Sandra O'Malley, Chairperson, LauraLynn