FAMILIES supported by Oxford’s Helen and Douglas House hospice shared personal tales of inspiration and hope spanning three decades.
Thirty families were picked to tell their stories to celebrate Helen House’s 30th birthday.
Now their experiences, as well as their photographs, have been displayed as part of the We Are Thirty exhibition.
They joined staff, fundraisers and friends at a reception at the O3 Gallery at Oxford Castle.
The exhibition documents life at Helen House and Douglas House and features 30 children and young adults who use the hospices now, as well as families who have used them in the past.
More than 50 people attended the reception.
Among them were Alison and Colin Goodall who live in Harwell, with their children Ben, 14, and Leo, seven.
Their middle son Elliot spent his last weeks in Helen House, where he died at seven months old in 2002.
The family stayed in an on-site flat for two weeks – the last week of Elliot’s life and the week afterwards leading up to his funeral.
Mrs Goodall, 42, said: ”We were able to be close to Elliot, to see him and hold him whenever we wanted to, but know that he had the unobtrusive medical care he needed to keep him comfortable.
“After Elliot died, we were able to visit him as often as we wanted to until we felt ready to let him go.
“We were supported in every way possible by people who understood what we were going through and how we were feeling.”
Staff at Helen House helped the Goodall family with funeral arrangements and bereavement support.
Since then, the Goodalls have themselves offered support to others at parents’ groups run by the hospice.
All families who were using the hospice last December were asked if they wanted to be part of the exhibition. Staff said there was an overwhelming response.
Two bereaved families were also asked if they would like to be involved.
Others who attended included Sian Davies, 14, from Wantage, who has congenital heart disease, high pressure in her lungs and is on oxygen for at least 12 hours a day.
Also featured are Annette and Jay Watson, who live in Witney with their nine-year-old daughter Ellie and twins Alex and Peter, who are three.
Both Ellie and Alex have an un-diagnosed genetic condition which means they have little verbal communication, limited physical ability and are wheelchair users.
The family have stayed at Helen House together but most often it offers a respite for Mr and Mrs Watson when practical things become exhausting.