Banner Winter Wishes
Banner Winter Wishes

How ellenor is Making Children’s “Winter Wishes” Come True This Christmas – With Some Help from Local Black Cabbies!

Over the years, Christmas has served up its fair share of miracles. But this fun, frosty, festive season, children under ellenor’s care will be treated to something extra special.

In 2023, children and their families facing life-limiting illnesses and receiving support from ellenor have received an exclusive invitation. They are invited to experience Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland a day early, marking this the very first occurrence of the invite- only event named Winter Wishes.

The exclusive event, a result of collaboration between ellenor’s fundraising team and Royal Parks, invites families to enjoy Winter Wonderland’s attractions, including Lidl on Ice, Ice Rink, The Magical Ice Kingdom, and The Giant Observation Wheel – all complimentary.  Additionally, a free circus show is scheduled for 1pm.

The families can engage in ice sculpting workshops, Christmas sing-alongs, and fondue tasting; all the joyful, family-friendly experiences you get at Winter Wonderland but with significantly fewer crowds, benefiting families with life-limited children.

The inaugural Winter Wishes will take place on Tuesday 21st November 2023 from 10am to 1pm, and welcomes charities, schools, and youth groups that serve people who have disabilities, or who come from disadvantaged backgrounds.

For its young ellenor attendees, the fun and excitement of the first ever Winter Wishes will make those three hours feel like mere minutes. For the people who helped make it happen for them, however, a lot of work went into planning and prep – with ellenor’s team relying on its strong network of relationships and partners in the community to organise it all.

Firstly, there was the matter of getting the families – who are mostly based in Kent and Bexley, ellenor’s catchment zone – to and from the West London-located event.

Well, Christmas miracles don’t happen without Christmas heroes. And those heroes, as it turns out, don’t wear capes – they drive black cabs.

As soon as ellenor’s Corporate Partnerships Manager Jemma Kemp had put the word out to her contact Pete Guirguis – a black cab driver with a history of volunteering for ellenor – he put it out to his colleagues. Hands went up so quickly that within moments, the required number of black cabs were secured.

On 21st November, black cabs will pick up families from the Manor Hotel in Gravesend and take them to Winter Wishes, before collecting and dropping them back once the event finishes. 

Several other families will take the train – their tickets generously funded by the Gravesend and Meopham Rotary Club. The black cabs will provide ellenor’s patients with disabilities or mobility issues to travel in comfort and class. This allows them to experience the unique wisdom only cabbies can dispense and to ride the capital’s roads in a manner that is iconically, undeniably London.

“Black cabs are purpose-built and wheelchair accessible,” explains Mickey Harris, Pete’s friend and another black cab driver who – having seen his wife Barbara pass away under ellenor’s care – has a deeply personal connection to the charity.

“Anyone in a wheelchair doesn’t need to be taken out of it to travel,” he continues. “And there’s a lot of space in there: with room for medical equipment or personnel, as well as members of the patient’s family. Black cabs are superb vehicles that all members of society can enjoy: people, for example, with dementia, disabilities, or ambulatory problems. In a taxi, they’re safe – and we can get them where they need to go.”

Pete agrees. “There’s a level of confidence people have in taxis that they don’t really have in any other form of transportation,” he says. “When they see that orange light and get in the back, they know they’re safe. They feel at home; they understand what we represent.”

Black cabbies have a long history of not only of reliability, but philanthropy; with century-long traditions of giving to local and national charities alive today. And there’s already tentative talk that taking ellenor children families to Winter Wishes each year might become its very own staple in the cabbies’ Christmas calendar.

And why not? Christmas is a special time of year. Cabbies are a special sort of people. And ellenor is an extremely special cause.

“Christmas gives us the opportunity to actually be the people we should be all year long,” Mickey says. “There are people out there who need some extra support. We have the ability to donate our time to make sure they get that support. If we can do that – if we can make a person’s Christmas that little bit brighter, or happier – the world will be all the better for it.”

The cabbies were the final pieces of the Christmas puzzle; one that ellenor’s different teams have all been working hard to solve in the days and weeks leading up to Winter Wishes.

ellenor’s children’s team helped liaise with families to understand who wanted to come and assess their transport needs. The fundraising team procured tickets to the event through their existing relationships with Royal Parks. They also helped secure funding, via a local rotary group, for the families’ train tickets, and engaged the black cabs.

“It was a real team effort,” Jemma explains. “And such a pleasure to get families to such an amazing event; families that wouldn’t necessarily be able to experience that otherwise. Many of these families wouldn’t have dreamed of going to Winter Wonderland; because it’s too busy, too hard to get to, and a challenge on public transport for people in wheelchairs.

“But thanks to the passionate team we’re so lucky to have here at ellenor, and to the selflessness and generosity of local cabbies and Gravesend and Meopham Rotary Club - – we made it happen.

“And that sounds like a Christmas miracle to me!”