Our Chairman Reflects on 2021

Published: 31 Dec 2021

As the year draws to a close, we have an opportunity to reflect on the year past and remember the year that was.

Chairperson of LauraLynn Children’s Hospice Niall McHugh (left) is pictured presenting a gift hand made in the hospice to Taoiseach Micheál Martin

2021, much like 2020, posed numerous challenges for us all but despite continuing to navigate through our ‘new normal’, we still made great memories and achieved so much during our 10th year. 

From announcing plans to expand our services, to welcoming the Minster for Health, meeting with the Taoiseach and holding our first real life family event in over a year, our LauraLynn Oscars, 2021 has been a busy year. I want to take this time to thank each of you for your continued support - our staff, volunteers, fundraisers and donors. It is through all of your support that we can provide these special moments for our LauraLynn families and for that I, along with all of the LauraLynn staff, wish to extend our gratitude.   

2021 was a tough year with Covid still dominating the headlines and forcing us to change the way we live and operate for a second year.  At the heart of LauraLynn is community and it was difficult not being able to come together to celebrate, to remember, to reflect and to support one another but we continued to find virtual ways to be together.  

We enjoyed more ‘real life’ moments together when it was safe to do so and we were grateful to be able to come together to celebrate our 10th Birthday with colleagues and we were also fortunate to be able to hold our LauraLynn Oscars Event which was the first in-person family event since the pandemic began.  

Once again, this year, we are so grateful to our corporate partners and business supporters for their loyal and generous support during the year. This year was challenging for so many of them but their generosity never faded.  A big shout out to the staff who virtually cycled, walked, and held online fundraisers for us. Their commitment, energy and passion continue to make a huge impact at LauraLynn.   

Covid 19 continued to have an impact on our ability to hold Community Fundraisers but once again supporters across the country did not let a global pandemic stop their motivation, enthusiasm, passion and dedication to LauraLynn. We had more incredibly successful Facebook Fundraisers donate their hair, their birthday, swim and walk thousands of Kilometres and for some, run a marathon a week every week for the entire year as part of Ray’s Marathon Challenge. A huge thank you to all of the people, clubs, schools, teams and families across the country who support LauraLynn. We are so proud and lucky to have such a wonderful community of supporters.   

In January, we rolled out our annual Thank You Week Campaign, a special week we dedicate each year to thanking all those who make LauraLynn the place that it is. We held a Virtual Open Day for many of our supporters where they got to virtually see inside the walls of LauraLynn and hear first-hand what their support makes possible.  

In March we celebrated St Patrick’s Day and we even had a small parade with the children and staff in our hospice dressing up and lifting our spirits. In April, we rolled out our annual Spring Appeal, fronted by the brilliant Alex Coyne and his mum Nicola.  We also held our first Virtual Memorial Service in April for our bereaved families.  

In May, we celebrated National Children’s Hospice Week, albeit mostly virtual. We couldn’t have our usual Ireland AM Outdoor Broadcast on site again this year but despite all of that we had a great week of fun and raised lots of awareness as well as funds. We had lots of media coverage across all platforms and with the help of lots of our well-known supporters and amazing families, we rolled out a very successful campaign which highlighted the feelings that families were experiencing at the time – Isolated and Worried.  We conducted a survey with our families to collate data on their lived experiences and we had a huge reaction.  A huge thank you to all of those who supported Children’s Hospice Week.   

In July, as part of our 10th year celebrations we launched The McKenna Scholarship, named after our founders Jane and Brendan McKenna. The Scholarship is aimed at supporting the expansion of the knowledge base in children’s palliative care and marks a major development in LauraLynn’s research strategy. The McKenna Scholarship will provide funding for a student undertaking a postgraduate degree (MD or PhD) in the area of children’s palliative care.  

In September, we had a big month as we marked a ‘Decade of Care’ as we celebrated our 10th Anniversary. As part of our anniversary, we announced exciting plans to expand our services both in Leinster but also through a Satellite Service in Cork bringing services closer to home for children and families across Munster. This was a momentous announcement for us and we were joined by Stephen Donnelly, Minister for Health for the occassion. To raise awareness in our 10th year we also launched a National Awareness Campaign with radio ads running across over 30 stations with an extensive digital and poster campaign as well.  We also launched our Annual Report which is always a proud moment as it allows us to reflect on the year that’s passed. 

September also saw us unveil a Memorial Tree at the Hospice to honour all of the children who have passed away over the years. The tree was beautifully sculpted by local artist Emma Jane Rushworth in collaboration with the School of Engineering in DCU – we thank all involved in creating this peaceful and reflective space. Our 10th Birthday was also a time to celebrate and reflect on the decade with our families and supporters and on Sunday 26th September we held a Virtual 10th Birthday Event with the help of our partners in Verve, The Live Agency. September also saw us come together to support Palliative Care Week.  

In October, we held our first in-person family event in almost 2 years with our LauraLynn Oscars. Four families took part in the project which sees families write and star in their very own movie. The project culminated in a once in a lifetime Hollywood-style red-carpet experience at the Odeon Cinema in Charlestown on October 2nd. A wonderful day was had by the families and all who attended. A huge thank you to everyone involved in making this wonderful event happen. We also had a very important meeting in October when we met with An Taoiseach, Micháel Martin at Government Buildings to mark our 10th Anniversary.  

In November, we celebrated our annual Tree Lighting Ceremony, Light Up LauraLynn. Due to Covid we once again had to hold a virtual event. Despite this, the event was a huge success and we streamed it live from Verve’s Studios with performances from Ham Sandwich, the LauraLynn Choir and a very special visit from Santa and Mrs Claus. We turned on the lights in LauraLynn and remembered those who are no longer with us with a beautiful Reflection Moment from our Chaplain Thomas.  

We also picked up some silverware in November winning two Lift 2021 Awards, congratulations to Clare Daly and Anne Marie Carroll for picking up an award each. The Lift programme (Leading Ireland’s Future Together’) Programme is part of LauraLynn’s Values Programme and has been a huge success with many colleagues completing the programme during 2021.  

Also in November, some of our families appeared on the Late Late Toy Show in a short video. We got to see some of our gorgeous families smiling and being part of the biggest show in town. We launched our annual Christmas Appeal, was fronted by the wonderful O’Flaherty Family. The Appeal was a great success and was supported by our Ambassador Nicola Coughlan who took part in some national press to promote the campaign.  

In December, we came together in the Phoenix Park for Ray’s Half Marathon & 5k Event. The event fronted by our wonderful ambassador Ray D’Arcy seen many participants of Ray’s Marathon Challenge take part along with many more members of the public. A great day out was had and we would like to extend our warmest thanks to Ray for his huge commitment to the fundraiser and for his time this year and to all who have completed Ray’s Marathon Challenge, it was a huge commitment and your dedication is truly inspiring. A total of €875,000 has been raised so far with more funds expected to come in over the Christmas period.   

We are truly honoured to have Ray as a LauraLynn Ambassador and thank him again for his support over the years.  

We couldn’t come together to have our Family Christmas Party again this year but we did bring Christmas to our families with our Christmas Gifting initiative. Families received a very special Advent Calendar with treats and goodies and they also got a very special personalised message from Santa for each child and family.  

Finally, I would like to again thank you – our families, staff, volunteers, Ambassadors, fundraisers 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 2022.   

Niall McHugh, Chairman