12:30PM, Thursday 24 September 2015
Years of hard work were celebrated yesterday (Wednesday) as ground was broken at the site of the Alexander Devine children’s hospice.
A ceremony was held to mark the beginning of building work which will now start on Berkshire’s first children’s hospice at Woodlands Park, Maidenhead.
More than 150 guests attended, including the charity’s patrons Sir Michael Parkinson and Maidenhead MP Theresa May, councillors, charity staff and supporters.
Sir Michael even got the chance to hop up into the hot seat and sit in a digger.
The Alexander Devine Children’s Hospice Service campaign, which began in 2007, was set up by Fiona and John Devine after their son Alexander passed away in 2006 from a rare brain tumour aged eight.
In 2013 the charity set a £5m target to build the hospice and since then almost £4m has been raised.
Fiona said: “It’s amazing to think where we are now. Thank you to everyone who has supported us so far, it would not be possible without you.”
The six-acre site was donated to the charity by an unnamed local benefactor in 2011.
Speaking at the groundbreaking event, Sir Michael Parkinson said: “This is an important day for our charity. This is something that should have been done years ago.
“This is the beginning of the end but there are still many challenges ahead. This hospice will cost £2m a year to run and the fundraising must continue.
“We need lots of money.”
Building work will take 16-18 months to complete. When it is finished the hospice will offer day and night care for up to 600 children in Berkshire.
Theresa May said: “This is a great day for the charity and Fiona. Alexander Devine is not just about the building but the volunteers and nurses that have provided great support to the community.
“Fiona and John’s vision has become a reality.”
John Devine said: “Nine years ago we had this vision and now it is finally coming alive.”
Also at the ceremony were a few of Alexander’s friends who attend The Windsor Boys’ School.
George Egleton, Luke Unger and Ronan Tackney said they were ‘overwhelmed’ and felt ‘privileged’ to witness the event.
Ronan said: “Fiona is a very driven person and today is a real milestone for the charity.”
The Advertiser and its sister Express titles have supported the project through the Together We Can Build It campaign, launched last year.
The Louis Baylis Trust, which owns the papers, has donated £100,000 to the cause
More than 50 street parties are set to take place this weekend across the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead and the surrounding areas.
An independent report into a Conservative councillor has found a breach of the Royal Borough’s code of conduct in a document seen by the Advertiser.