A children’s cancer charity is fighting to keep its Bristol homes for families open as it faces a 'devastating' hole of £8million.
CLIC Sargent, the UK’s leading charity for young cancer patients, provides the Homes from Home service, a free place for families to stay while their loved one is going through cancer treatment.
Families from as far as Cornwall and Belfast travel to Bristol for specialist treatment and the homes can be a lifeline for them against crippling travel costs.
However, the coronavirus pandemic has left the charity has faced huge challenges in keeping the service running.
It has also led to CLIC Sargent facing a financial crisis, with the charity seeing a 60 per cent drop in income as fundraising events across the country have been cancelled.
The charity, which has an head office in Bristol city centre, has also been forced to close its charity shops in the city during lockdown, contributing to a loss of £8million this year which pays for services such as the Homes from Home.
Ann Grady, Bristol Home from Home manager, said they are doing everything they can to keep the homes open for families.
She said: "I’ve worked at our Homes from Home for 10 years and after all this time I’ve never seen or felt such fear amongst the people we care most about.
“We have to do what we can for the people we are able to support, without the homes being there at all things would be so difficult for these families.
"We are trying to keep spirits up by telling families we’re still here for them - we’re still the same homes.”
To keep the homes open, CLIC Sargent staff has implemented a number of changes and are following government safety guidelines such as using appropriate PPE.
Ann said: “Due to the virus, our standards of cleaning are even higher than they normally are – we’re doing extra deep cleans, extra work surface cleaning and hand washing constantly to keep the spaces as safe as possible for families and staff.
“Families are also struggling without the services they are used to and so are we.
“The thing that destroys me the most in all of this is no hugging but I am trying to stay positive, this won’t last forever.
"I just keep reminding myself we can't be there for everyone right now, but we are doing whatever we can to support those families we do have come through our doors.”
CLIC Sargent has since launched an emergency appeal to ask the local community to donate to keep its services running during the coronavirus crisis.
Tracy Cosgrave, associate director of services at CLIC Sargent, said: “Cancer doesn’t stop for coronavirus.
"Parents are still being told the devastating news their child has cancer and that’s why CLIC Sargent is fighting hard to keep our Homes from Home near hospitals open so that parents have somewhere to stay for free and be close to their child during their treatment.
“We desperately need the support of the public to keep our Homes from Home open so that we can continue to be there for the families of children and young people living with cancer at a time when they need it most.”
To support CLIC Sargent and donate today, click here to donate online or text GIVE10 to 70025 to donate £10.