A Visit to Acorns Children's Hospice UK Children's Charity

We sent our head of marketing, Leah, along who was warmly met and welcomed by Emma Rolinson, one of Acorns’ dedicated fundraising officers. Emma was the perfect host and guide for this tour and provided an in depth view of how Acorns operates from the ground up.

In case you don’t know what Acorns Children's Hospice is or do, they are an organisation that embodies compassion, love, and unwavering support for children facing complex medical challenges and life limiting illnesses. Their mission revolves around improving the lives of these young individuals and supporting their families by providing much-needed care and assistance through their unwavering services.

One of the most striking aspects of Acorns' work is their commitment to providing comprehensive care tailored to each child's unique needs and as you’ll read on from the tour, they literally provide everything to make each child feel comfortable and cared for. They understand the immense physical and emotional strain that these conditions place on families and through their team of dedicated nurses and state-of-the-art facilities, Acorns ensures that every child receives the specialised attention and support they deserve. This includes expert pain management, symptom control, respite care, and compassionate end-of-life support.

Below is Leah’s recount of her visit;

As the head of marketing for a fulfilment company, my role comes with its own unique set of challenges, though they pale in comparison to the invaluable work done by Acorns Children's Hospice. My responsibilities are varied at Rapid Pack and include securing strategic partnerships that foster our growth. However, at the core of our team's ethos, there also exists a profound commitment to being humanistic and making a positive impact wherever we can.

Last year, Ben, the founder of Rapid Pack and I agreed that we wanted to work with and nominate a charity partner, one we could wholeheartedly support. The demands of heavy workloads and unforeseen postal strikes meant our well-meaning intentions were unfortunately pushed back and only finally realised a couple of months back.

When I first received the invitation from Claire Snape, I admit I had some initial apprehensions. My imagination may have gotten the best of me, and I wasn't entirely sure how emotionally challenging a visit to a children's hospice could be.

I distinctly recall, during the taxi ride to the hospice, silently reminding myself to remain composed even if I found the experience emotionally challenging. I summoned my acting skills and transformed into a character seemingly devoid of emotions, solely focused on documenting the visit and gathering as much information about Acorns as I could.

As I approached the hospice, I took a deep breath, noticing a banner on the railings. A momentary confusion set in as the surroundings appeared somewhat like a church, prompting a brief doubt about whether I'd provided the correct address to the taxi driver. Fortunately, my uncertainty was dispelled when I spotted a kind older woman tending to the garden in front of the church. I approached her and asked, 'Is this Acorns Children's Hospice?' Her warm smile reassured me as she directed me down a narrow path beside the church and informed me that the hospice was located at the rear.

As I followed the path around, the immediate quiet struck me. The constant noise from the main road had completely vanished. To my left, a quaint wooden shed caught my eye, and a few cars were parked ahead, leading to the hospice's entrance. A welcoming wooden frame adorned with beautiful pink-flowered hanging baskets marked the entry. The exterior pleasantly surprised me.

Acorns Children's Hospice, Walsall

I started in the reception area, where I was greeted by a lovely lady who I later learned volunteered for hospice administration. She went to find Emma, the person designated to give me the tour, to come and meet me. Throughout the tour, I found Emma to be exceptionally welcoming and willing to address every question I had with her extensive knowledge.

I found the layout of the hospice to be quite quirky and unconventional, and Emma explained that every room had direct access to the garden – quite literally. Each room featured a set of large glass doors that not only allowed ample sunlight to flood in but, as Emma mentioned, during the summer months, these doors were opened to ensure that children with limited mobility could also enjoy the outdoors too. It was a stark contrast to what I had initially imagined – rather than a cold, clinical hospital with a sombre air about it, the hospice was just so bright, clean, and had a calm sense of joy throughout. I noticed that the layout of the halls seemed to cleverly form the shape of an acorn, which added a unique and welcoming touch.

Family Conference Room

The tour began in the Family Conference Room, where Emma introduced me to the hospice's unwavering dedication to tailored care for every child. Leading off to the side of this room was my first look at a child's bedroom. Emma showed me the room and explained how each room could be personalised to suit the needs and preferences of the child staying there. Above the bed, nestled in the ceiling, was a sizable TV, offering the child the freedom to enjoy a wide range of content, from their favourite films to YouTube, providing comfort and entertainment during their stay. Once more, I was struck by the fact that every room had direct access to the garden, and I couldn't help but smile at the idea of a child having the opportunity to relish the outdoors while receiving the essential care they needed.

Child's Bedroom


Continuing down the corridor, Emma paused beside another room, where a nameplate adorned the exterior. Emma shared that this was yet another thoughtful gesture, ensuring that each child staying overnight would feel a sense of ownership and belonging during their stay at Acorns. I thought this was so wonderful and loved how no two nameplates were the same and also reflected the personality of each child. 

Corridor

We entered the activities room, where a group of children were receiving their daily medical treatments under the attentive care of their dedicated nurses. The activities room had an interesting hexagonal shape to it, allowing ample natural light to flood in through its generous windows. The room was also well-stocked with books, toys, and crafting materials, and a TV added a touch of playful ambiance to the environment.

Bedroom with Sensory Light Display

We reached a room with drawn curtains, where a mesmerising sensory light display painted green laser dots across the walls and ceiling. Emma said that this was another immersive experience designed to provide children with a comforting and engaging environment, enhancing their sense of wellbeing.

Further down the corridor, we approached a locked hydrotherapy room. Emma clarified that the hydrotherapy pool wasn't solely reserved for children but was also accessible to their families. It offered a unique opportunity for both children and their loved ones to benefit from hydrotherapy medical treatments and leisurely swimming activities simultaneously. This served as a reminder for me that Acorns goes beyond delivering essential medical care to its children; it also offers unwavering care and support to the families of these children.

UNICEF Gold Award

As we continued our tour, we passed by a board proudly proclaiming that Acorns had received a UNICEF Gold award for its work to protect children’s rights, making history as the first hospice in Britain to receive this standard. The award recognises the charity’s commitment to ensuring the United Nations Convention for the Rights of the Child is at the heart of its culture, planning, policies and practice. Emma led me into a room nicknamed as the Adolescent Room. It resembled a comfortable living room, complete with a compact kitchenette. The atmosphere here was notably distinct from the other rooms I had visited but still exuded a cosy and inviting feeling. Emma explained that some of the teenagers can use this room to have their own space, with the added bonus of being able to prepare their own meals in the adjoining kitchen. This room, too, had access to the outdoors, featuring its own private courtyard. I couldn't help but think how much I would have appreciated having a space like that during my own teenage years. The living room offered the choice of watching movies or indulging in video games, providing a comfortable haven for older children.

Adolescent Room

We then entered one of my personal favourites and a room that, as Emma explained, was a favourite not only by the children but also by the staff: the sensory room. Unlike the vibrant and bold colours found elsewhere, this room exuded a serene and almost ethereal feel to it. A sizable screen projected captivating underwater scenes with fish and a tortoise gracefully gliding through the water. Soft mats covered the floor accompanied by plush seating and featuring interactive sensory lights on the walls all around the room. All of this was enhanced by surround sound speakers. It felt like the ideal space to immerse yourself fully in whatever film or video was playing on the screen and completely forget the world outside.

Next stop on the tour was the family flat located upstairs. It was thoughtfully equipped with a wide range of amenities, including a living and kitchen area, a separate lounge, a bathroom, and bedrooms. This was yet another testament to Acorns' commitment to providing comprehensive and inclusive care and support to families. I completely overlooked the fact that there was a hospice below, and I couldn't help but imagine how this additional facility must offer even more comfort and support to the families during their challenging times.

Adolescent Room

Emma guided me from the family flat towards the training room and offices located across the hospice. I must admit, I was taken aback because upon my initial arrival, I had assumed the hospice was all on one level. I couldn't have imagined just how expansive the site was, considering how it appeared quite small and compact from the outside. I didn’t feel disorientated however I just remember thinking the hospice seemed endless and expansive.

Our tour took a more solemn turn, yet still in line with Acorns' nurturing and totally thoughtful influence. In many hospitals and hospices, this space is known as a "chapel of rest," the place where loved ones could say their final goodbyes and Emma kindly explained that it was situated away from the main halls, almost tucked away in the quieter part of the hospice. As we entered this area, I braced myself, anticipating a moment filled with sadness. Indeed, a sense of heaviness washed over me as Emma detailed the different rooms of the area.

Sensory Room

Emma showed me a separate space to sit and reflect next to the special bedroom. The room where the child was laid to rest itself was not too dissimilar to the bedrooms we had already seen but this held a more serene presence to it. A room of endless night, I remember thinking. Throughout the tour, I was just constantly in awe at how Acorns had catered to every need possible as the room featured a washroom adjacent for families who adhered to specific religious practices to cleanse their loved one's body. I'm not sure if it was the overall atmosphere of loving care and support that permeated every inch of the building, but instead of being overwhelmed with tears, I distinctly remember feeling a profound sense of stillness. It wasn't a feeling of joy, but rather an appreciation for how Acorns had meticulously considered the design of the hospice, even in the context of funerary care, with discreet and respectful procession arrangements.

Isabella's Place, Art & Crafts Room

I was relieved that the next stop on our tour swiftly replaced the sombre thoughts previous with the lively canteen. Not quite bustling, but there were a handful of staff enjoying their lunch. Emma explained that the canteen was a shared space for both staff and children, demonstrating the message that at Acorns, everyone was part of one big, supportive family. Walking carefully across the recently mopped floor, I entered another activities room clearly designated for arts and crafts. Emma informed me that this was where most of the arts and crafts activities took place and proudly showed me the incredible walk-in cupboard stocked with a treasure trove of art and craft supplies.

Emma also pointed out that the tables in the room were thoughtfully designed to be adjustable in height, ensuring that all children, regardless of their needs, could participate fully in the wonderful activities. My feet led me to a sign that read "Isabella's Place," and Emma shared the touching story of Isabella, a former child who had a deep passion for arts and crafts. Isabella's parents had tirelessly fundraised for Acorns when the hospice faced closure a few years ago. In loving memory of Isabella, Acorns dedicated the arts activity room as "Isabella's Place."

Memorial Garden

At last, we ventured outside, but our first destination wasn't the main focal point that every room overlooked. To my delight, Emma led us to what felt like a hidden gem and very much like a secret garden. This was the memorial garden. It was yet another tranquil sanctuary discreetly tucked away, where families could come to remember their loved ones and find solace away from the outside world. A dedicated volunteer was diligently tending to the garden, removing weeds and maintaining its serenity.

Emma went on to explain that Acorns' business supporters and fundraisers often organised teams of their staff to come and assist with garden work at the hospice. It's worth noting that, apart from the medical staff, most of the individuals at Acorns are volunteers. While standing there on the grounds, I could genuinely sense the powerful call of compassion and care, making it unsurprising that people would willingly offer their time and assistance to contribute wherever they could.

Lastly, we strolled over to the garden where children could revel in outdoor games, and it seemed as though the hospice building itself was embracing this central point with so much warmth that the grey skies above were completely forgotten. From this vantage point, I could see each of the rooms we had visited and I was once again reminded that they were all able to open out onto this wonderful space. I couldn't help but feel deeply humbled by the whole experience.

Outside Play Area

All my initial apprehensions prior to the visit had completely dissipated, and I found myself thinking that Acorns was like a little piece of heaven on earth, or at the very least, the perfect haven for families and children to find solace and receive care, whether medical or otherwise. Emma also reminded me that Acorns' support didn't cease with the end of a child's life. They continued to provide unwavering assistance to the families for many years after, for as long as it was needed. They still welcomed families to their grounds, even after the initial phase of care had ended.

I expressed my heartfelt gratitude to Emma for the enlightening tour, and my mind was buzzing with ideas about how we at Rapid Pack could further support Acorns. One of the avenues we considered was this very article, with the hope of dispelling any lingering apprehensions that others might have, much like I did before the tour. Additionally, we aimed to raise awareness of the fact that Acorns heavily relies on fundraising and donations to sustain its incredible three hospices. Emma's story about how the very hospice I was standing in had faced closure just a few years ago due to funding challenges underscored the critical importance of ongoing support and fundraising efforts.

So it is with immense pride that Ben and I, on behalf of Rapid Pack, have registered for the London Landmark Half Marathon in 2024, and yes, we are proudly running to support and fundraise for Acorns. Our target is to raise £900, and if you'd like to follow our candid journey to get fit for the marathon, please click on the link Rapid Pack Fulfilment is fundraising for Acorns Children's Hospice Trust (justgiving.com) and consider sharing or donating. Every penny raised will go directly towards benefiting Acorns.

Acorns Children's Hospice offers multiple ways for individuals and organisations to support their vital work. Whether through donations, shopping at their stores, participating in fundraising events, or volunteering time and skills, there are countless opportunities to contribute to their mission. To learn more about how you can get involved, visit their website at www.acorns.org.uk.

We, at Rapid Pack, are immensely proud to partner with Acorns Children's Hospice. Their dedication to providing specialist care, comprehensive support, and the creation of lasting memories ensures that every child and family feels valued and supported throughout their challenging journey. We urge everyone to join us in supporting this extraordinary organisation. Together, we can make a meaningful impact on the lives of those who need it most.

To gain deeper insight into the incredible work of Acorns Children's Hospice, don't miss their recently launched video, "Stronger Together," which provides an inspiring look at the charity's endeavours and the strength it brings to families in need. Watch the video here.

Our visit to Acorns Children's Hospice was a testament to the power of love, care, and compassion. It reinforced our commitment to supporting this noble cause, and we encourage everyone to stand with us in making a difference in the lives of these courageous children and their families.

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