Community rallies to support Padua Ward

Padua Ward donations. Photo shows people standing behind a hospital bed which is piled high with computer games and devices. Two of the people are holding a giant cheque. They are pictured in a hospital ward.

Published on 29 April 2021

An eight-year-old boy donated his own games console after hearing tech had been stolen from the children’s ward at the William Harvey Hospital.

The generous gesture was matched by supporters across the local community, who not only gifted replacements but also raised more than £5,000 for staff to spend on additional equipment.

The fundraising campaign was sparked by mum Vanessa Deacon, who was in Padua Ward with her 13-year-old son Tyler Coulson when she heard about the theft last month of a Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Switch lite, Chromebook and two Nintendo games.

She said: “I couldn’t believe someone would do that to sick children. Having the tech at the bedside helped get us through, especially at the moment when we can’t leave the ward to go to the playroom because of the Covid restrictions.

“We would not have coped without it so I really wanted to replace it. I’ve done some fundraising before after having to give up work when I was diagnosed with Functional Neurological Disorder so I thought I might be able to get some things donated, but I had no idea it would take off like it did!”

Vanessa’s friend Chris Kennedy contacted local radio station Radio Ashford, and presenter Sam Griffin created an online fundraising page, which was promoted on air by breakfast presenter John ‘Webbo’ Webster. Other presenters followed suit throughout the day on air and on their social media channels.

Vanessa said: “The response was incredible and the efforts from everyone at Radio Ashford was brilliant. I was sitting here watching the total go up and up – we hit our £500 target in 20 minutes, and in a few hours we had £2,000 and it just kept going.

“The ward is absolutely amazing and the care they give is fantastic -they look after parents as well as the children and it is always done with a smile and with compassion.

“The response just shows how important they are to our community.”

Sam, who co-ordinated donations of equipment as well as money, said the whole team at Radio Ashford had been happy to help.

She said: “So many people from Ashford, including many of our team, have had children on this ward.

“News of the thefts really touched the community and we were overwhelmed with the response. One listener told us her eight-year-old son unplugged his console and wrapped it up to give to the children on the ward.

“People have been incredibly generous, and as well as raising £5,100 we have had donations of games consoles, tablets, books, and DVDs to help keep the children entertained while they are in hospital.”

Padua ward manager Lindsay Wheeler said staff were ‘blown away’ by the response from the community.

She said: “There were a lot of happy tears among the team. It is beyond wonderful to have been given this fantastic amount of money as well as the replacement items and so much more.

“We use toys and games as distraction but also to help get our young patients out of bed and active doing their physio, and thanks to this amazing fundraiser even more children will be able to benefit.”

The money will be held by East Kent Hospitals Charity while staff decide how to spend it. The charity has a dedicated Child Health appeal to support children’s services across the Trust - for more information see https://www.ekhcharity.org.uk/about-us/child-health/