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BBC Children in Need Grants ellenor Hospice £45,000 of Funding in “Amazing News” for Play Therapy

ellenor is thrilled to announce that it has been awarded a generous grant from BBC Children in Need. This longstanding 27 year partnership marks a significant milestone in their commitment to supporting bereaved children and children with life limiting conditions in the Kent and Bexley communities. The charity, widely recognised for its annual telethon hosted by high-profile celebrities, will contribute a total of £45,000, over three years, to fund ellenor’s crucial work with bereaved children.

Specifically, the funding will go towards two aspects of ellenor’s existing services for grieving children: play therapy, and GEMS (Grief Every Memory is Special) days.

“This is amazing news for us, to receive funding from BBC Children in Need,” says Jolanta Martis, play therapist at ellenor.

“The funding will allow us to continue to create a safe space for healing and growth. And enable us to keep providing neutral, supportive environments where bereaved children can learn to navigate complex emotions, connect with others facing similar circumstances, and find a path to renewed hope.”

ellenor is a hospice charity that cares for children and adults with life-limiting illnesses: both from their own homes the Kent and Bexley, and from its Northfleet-based inpatient and outpatient units. As part of its holistic model of care – which aims to treat the patient, rather than the disease; and considers not only their clinical needs, but their emotional, social, and psychological ones, too – ellenor also supports the families of its patients.

As part of this, ellenor offers bereavement support and counselling to older children and adults grappling with the recent loss of a loved one. For children too young to express their feelings in words, however, an alternative exists: play therapy.

“Play therapy serves as a bridge between the language of children and the vast arena of their emotions,” says Jola. “Through the power of play, bereaved children can communicate their fear and anxieties without the need for words; to discover that their emotions are valid, and that they’re not alone in their grief.”

Alongside play therapy, the BBC Children in Need grant will also go to funding ellenor’s GEMS days. Available to children aged 6 to 16 years, GEMS is a bereavement support group for young people who have lost a loved one: be they a parent, a sibling, or a grandparent.

GEMS days – which combine therapeutic activities alongside fun and games – provide an outlet for the child’s grief, while enabling them to meet others going through the same thing. They can make friends, talk about their feelings in a safe, secure space, and learn about coping mechanisms. All while sharing treasured memories of their lost loved ones, and – through creativity and collaboration – making new ones to savour. 

“Our GEMS days offer a unique blend of support,” Jola explains. “Friendship; education; togetherness. The children are able to come together and form a community that understands the overwhelming breadth and depth of their loss”.

“With the new funding secured, our GEMS days combining therapeutic activities with fun, take a significant leap forward.  These days provide a vital outlet for grieving children, fostering friendships, open conversations, and important coping skills. Thanks to this funding we will be able to expand our GEMS days to new locations, enabling children to connect with the natural world. Seaside, forest and diverse settings will contribute to their emotional wellbeing, guiding them on their path towards healing.”

Parents are also involved in GEMS days, Jola explains. “In GEMS days, parents find support for their own loss, and learn techniques and strategies for supporting their children. They learn to cope, to find resilience; to honour the memory of their loved one.”

This will be the first time the BBC Children in Need has supported ellenor’s play therapy and GEMS days – but not its first interaction with the charity. BBC Children in Need funded ellenor’s music therapy program for six years from 2017 to 2020, to the value of £71,950.

In addition to play therapy and GEMS days, this latest grant from BBC Children in Need will also go towards developing ellenor’s pre-bereavement services: which focus on engaging with the child before they experience a loss.

“We can see how crucial this work is in helping the child deal with the upcoming loss,” Jola says, “and that the earlier we begin to work with them, the better the outcomes.”

Some of the BBC Children in Need funding may also go towards developing ellenor’s oncology group for children who have cancer. It’s a space they can come together to talk about their treatment and manage the feelings and difficulties that come with having cancer – alongside coping with all the usual pressures of being a child growing up.

“At ellenor, we think about all the children who come across us,” explains Jola. “Whether the child is a patient, or a son, daughter, or sibling. We embrace all of them. We also understand that bereavement is often only one part of the problem. They could have anxiety, depression, or struggles at school. We support them through all this.”

The BBC Children in Need funding will go a long way to enabling this support over the next three years.

“The funding from BBC Children in Need isn’t just financial – it’s a lifeline that connects us to the hearts and minds of these bereaved children. It allows us to be there when they need us the most; to provide a guiding light through the darkness of time”.

“The BBC’s support for our play therapy and GEMS programs isn’t just an investment in today, but in the future; in the resilience and strength of generations to come. With the mental health of children showing a post-pandemic fragility, we have to step in early, when they’re struggling, in their most vulnerable moments”.

“Because of the funding, we’re in an excellent place to do that now.”