Slough Express

A remarkable anniversar­y

This year marks a special anniversar­y for Alexander Devine Children's Hospice Service as it celebrates 15 years. Chief reporter Kieran Bell heard from Sir Michael Parkinson, a close supporter of the charity since its inception, about his involvemen­t.


It is not often that something special is borne out of tragedy, but in the case of a Maidenhead hospice – which is marking its 15th birthday this week – that is exactly what has happened.

Since their son Alexander died in 2006 from a rare brain tumour, parents Fiona and John Devine made it their mission to ensure others experienci­ng the same would be given a helping hand.

Without a dedicated children’s hospice in Berkshire, their world was consumed by long drives to access specialist care.

One year later, on April 25, 2007, the Alexander Devine Cancer Trust was establishe­d, later known as Alexander Devine Children’s Hospice Service.

Fiona and John’s efforts caught the eye of legendary broadcaste­r and TV personalit­y Sir Michael Parkinson, who lives nearby.

“In a career stretching back over too many years than I care to admit, I have met and interviewe­d thousands of fascinatin­g and impressive people,” he explained.

“However, it is not an exaggerati­on to say that one of the most significan­t meetings of them all was with a young woman from Windsor who, when I first met her, had the demeanour of a church mouse but possessed the heart of a lion.

“Alexander duly arrived but then every parent’s nightmare was realised when at the age of four he was diagnosed with a rare and untreatabl­e brain tumour.

“It is the sort of event that usually destroys people and families but in the case of Fiona and John it was transforma­tional.

“They poured their shared grief into the formation of the hospice. Its mission was to ensure that children like Alexander would have the care they needed as well as providing a safe haven from the uncharted waters of the worst news any parent has to bear.”

Two years after the charity was founded, the hospice was able to fund its first nurse, while in 2012 it was officially registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

A year later, Sir Michael helped launch a capital campaign to build the hospice, with the first spades planted in the ground in 2015.

In June 2018, Alexander Devine Children’s Hospice Service opened its doors to its first child, with an official opening ceremony taking place in December that year.

“Fiona became the driving force behind the charity and that’s where I came into her life,” Sir Michael continued.

“I saw a young woman, so fearful of public speaking grow into a self-assured, mature and inspiring leader of a charity with an engaging manner and a persuasive style.

“As a result, the charity prospered, and when I visit our hospice I see it as an example of how local community goodwill and generosity comes together to produce an important building and community service.

“But it’s also a reminder to me of how much has been achieved purely from the reaction of one extraordin­ary woman to a dreadful, life-changing event.”

As with many other charities, Devine has had to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it was still there for those who needed it despite the lack of fundraisin­g income. And as the hospice enters 2022, it has plenty planned to mark a milestone year in its history, including a dedicated birthday party in June.

“But as we slowly emerge from this ordeal the hope is that we can drive forward in an unfettered way, build on the great work to date and complete the vision Fiona had 15 years ago,” Sir Michael said.

“There is much to be done and no one knows better how to do it than Fiona Devine. All I did was help her achieve her potential and it has been a rare privilege doing so.”

Supporters can leave a birthday message for the hospice by visiting visufund. com/celebratin­g15yearsof alexanderd­evine

 ?? ?? Fiona Devine and Sir Michael Parkinson, pictured during the constructi­on of the Alexander Devine hospice. Ref:125182-24
Fiona Devine and Sir Michael Parkinson, pictured during the constructi­on of the Alexander Devine hospice. Ref:125182-24

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