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The snowdrop appeal

517. Annika Dowson
518. James Dowson

A couple from Helmsley were involved in the fundraising of over £134,000 to create a maternity bereavement suite at Scarborough Hospital.

Annika and James Dowson were the inspiration behind York Teaching Hospital Trust’s ‘Snowdrop Appeal’. After their first child, Gypsy, was stillborn they began fundraising to help parents going through the same experience. Their success prompted the Trust to launch a formal appeal to create the suite.

In October 2008, Annika and James’ daughter, Gypsy, was stillborn in Scarborough Hospital at 39 weeks 5 days, weighing 7lb 12oz. Whilst recovering from the birth, Annika was cared for in a basic room on the Maternity Unit with little space for her family. She could hear other women going through labour and the cry of babies, knowing she would not be able to hear the sounds of her own child.

Annika and James wanted to help other parents dealing with such tragic loss by providing a custom built area to support them and their families. The new bereavement suite at Scarborough hospital is now almost complete. It includes a sleeping area, lounge, bathroom and kitchen facilities, allowing families the space and time to reflect on and come to terms with their loss. James and Annika were closely involved with the design of the suite, getting help and advice from other bereaved parents to ensure it met the needs of families experiencing loss.

The couple were involved in many aspects of the fundraising for the suite; running charity fairs and raffles, organising a ‘Snowball’ attended by 120 people, completing sponsored walks (including the 42 mile Lyke Wake Walk across the North Yorkshire moors) as well as other innovative ideas such as a charity calendar featuring 24 people who have either lost a child or cannot have children, with support from Scarborough’s rugby team.

Prime Minister David Cameron said:

“In the midst of the most devastating tragedy in their own family, Annika and James saw the need for a specialist facility at Scarborough Hospital to help other families in their position. Their fundraising and advice has helped to create a specialist bereavement suite that will provide care and comfort for parents in their darkest hours. I am delighted to recognise Annika and James as the UK’s 517th and 518th Points of Light.”

Annika and James said:

“This is such a massive honour. We are just two regular people who wanted to make things a bit more ‘comfortable’ for parents who, sadly, will be going through the heartbreak of stillbirth just as we did. The Snowdrop Appeal and everyone’s support and commitment throughout the appeal’s time, shows just how many people are affected by child loss of this kind. “James and I accepted this award with pride not just for us but for everyone who supported our fundraising. This award won’t bring our daughter Gypsy back to us but it does mean that awareness is still being raised and ‘breaking the silence’ really is happening.”

The daily Points of Light award recognises outstanding individual volunteers - people who are making a change in their community.

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