Our Chairman's 2020 Reflection

Published: 24 Dec 2020

The year posed numerous challenges but despite navigating through a global pandemic, we still made memories. 

Niall McHugh

As the year draws to a close, we have an opportunity to reflect on the year past and remember the year that none of us will ever forget. This year posed numerous challenges for us all but despite navigating through a global pandemic, we still made great memories and achieved so much during 2020.   

From opening newly renovated family accommodation with the launch of Project 5 Star in January to rolling out a hugely successful Children’s Hospice Week and being shortlisted for various awards. I want to take this time to thank each of you for your continued support - to the staff, volunteers, fundraisers and donors. It is through all of your support that we can provide these special moments to our LauraLynn families and for that I, along with all of the LauraLynn staff, wish to extend our gratitude.   

2020 was truly a life-changing year. We learned new words and concepts from social distancing to lockdown to cocooning. Overnight, we changed the way we live, work and interact. 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 found new ways to connect.  

We enjoyed numerous activities on Zoom, from Music Therapy to Play Therapy. Our volunteers went virtual and continued to provide their invaluable services through online platforms.   

This year more than ever, we are so grateful to our corporate partners and business supporters for their loyal and generous support during the year. This year was so 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 has made a huge impact at LauraLynn.   

Covid-19 had a huge impact on our ability to fundraise and Community Fundraising took a hit with some big events cancelled but despite all of those challenges Community Fundraising had an incredible year. Our supporters across the country did not let a global pandemic stop their motivation, enthusiasm, passion and dedication to LauraLynn. We moved to virtual fundraisers including some very successful Facebook challenges which saw us complete thousands of press ups and clock up hundreds of kilometres. 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 March, Covid-19 hit and very quickly we found ourselves having to make the decision to postpone our annual Heroes Ball. Almost overnight a huge number of our staff were moved to remote working. No one knew how long any of this was going to last at this stage. We navigated through, overcame challenges and continued to maintain our services. Our main priority was to be there for our service users and their families no matter what.   

In April, in response to Covid-19 we launched a Crisis Care Appeal. Our fundraising abilities had been severely affected at this stage. The appeal was a great success and once again our wonderful supporters gave so generously even at a time when so many were unsure of their livelihoods and many were going through difficult times.   

In May, Picture This made an appearance on The Late Late Show where they appealed to the public to support LauraLynn. A phenomenal €250,000 was raised from the appeal and the band raised so much awareness for our services which resulted in a growth in our supporter base right across the country.   

We also celebrated National Children’s Hospice Week in May, albeit a very different campaign to the one we had originally planned. We couldn’t have our usual Ireland AM Outdoor Broadcast on site 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. A huge thank you to all of those who supported Children’s Hospice Week.   

In June, we launched our Annual Report which is always a proud moment as it allows us to reflect on the year that’s passed. In August, we were honoured when an extremely generous couple decided to link up with RTÉ’s Joe Duffy Show, Liveline, and match listener donations to the value of €200,000. The appeal raised over €650,000 and invaluable amounts of awareness for our brand and services.   

In September, we celebrated our 9th Birthday with a very special virtual concert for our children and families from the amazing Picture This. A fantastic afternoon was had by all. We also celebrated our amazing volunteers in September with National Volunteer Week. We have over 170 registered volunteers who provide an invaluable service to our organisation. We simply could not do what we do without them. Throughout the pandemic they have continued to virtually volunteer and support our children and families.   

In October, Harper Collins published A Page From My Life in conjunction with the Ray D’Arcy Show. Proceeds from the book are in aid of our Hospice. The book launched at the end of October and was a huge success making onto the best seller list. LauraLynn founder, Jane McKenna, was interviewed on the Ray D’Arcy Show as part of the launch.   

In November, we celebrated our annual Tree Lighting Ceremony, Light Up LauraLynn. Due to Covid-19 we had to move our usual event to an online event this year. Despite having to go virtual, the event was a huge success with performances from two top Irish Music Acts, Picture This and Hozier. We turned on the lights, remembered those who are no longer with us and enjoyed some wonderful music. Also, in November, as part of the government's announcement of one-off funding for palliative Care Services, LauraLynn received €750,000. This news was followed by a visit from Health Minister Stephen Donnelly where it was announced that LauraLynn would receive €1.5m in core state funding for our hospice services from 2021. The figure equates to approximately 30 per cent of our operating costs and is a huge recognition of the services we provide.   

We also picked up some silverware in November in the form of a Good Governance Award for our Annual Report. This was a proud moment and well-deserved recognition for our services.   

In December, we launched Ray’s Marathon Challenge which is a fundraising challenge fronted by Ray D’Arcy. The challenge involves running or walking a marathon a week, every week, for a whole year and will kick off from January. This is by far our most ambitious challenge and we can’t wait to see it start. A huge thank you to Ray who is an amazing supporter and advocate for LauraLynn.   

We also welcomed some new Brand Ambassadors in 2020. Derry Girl’s Star, Nicola Coughlan, joined the LauraLynn team as an official ambassador alongside music icons, Picture This. We are thrilled to have stars of this calibre join our team and help us raise awareness for our services.   

Finally, I would like to extend our warmest Christmas wishes to each of you and wishing you all a happy and healthy 2021. 

Niall McHugh, Chairman