A founder stone of Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice is departing for new horizons.

Helen Mower was a key player before the hospice was even built. In 2002 she joined a tiny team determined to turn the dream of the first children’s hospice for South Yorkshire into reality.

Some 17 years on, as Head of Fundraising, the team she heads up works tirelessly to bring in the £4 million a year - £11,000 a day - the hospice needs to survive on, as it receives only 10% of its funding from the government.

Helen, 62, who lives in Wath, joined Bluebell Wood after working for the NSPCC’s North of England fundraising team. She had originally worked in the catering industry, then taught catering at Dearne Valley College. 

Helen said, “I first heard about Bluebell Wood through the very early events the fundraising committee was staging and I wanted to be a part of it. When I started there was me and just a head of fundraising, with two part-time office admin workers, in a tiny office we had got for free. We were fundraising for something that didn’t exist, but it was an exciting time. So many great volunteers came onboard who are still involved today.”

Helen helped to grow support groups, create links with local companies and staged awareness talks with social groups. Fundraising, says Helen, is about more than asking people for money: “It’s about inspiring people to realise what a difference they can make to a wonderful organisation like the hospice, and motivating them to give their time and energy to make something happen.”

In her time, she has seen many obstacles overcome - not least the crushing disappointment when planning permission was refused for a Doncaster site the hospice had set its sights on - and she leaves with many wonderful memories.

Some of her proudest moments? Witnessing the first sod of earth being cut on the site at Cramfit Road, North Anston, in 2005 where the hospice now stands, and the swell of public support it generated. And welcoming the hospice’s first child, a teenager who came for respite care, allowing his parents to go on a break for the first time without him. “Making magic moments for families whose time together is limited is what the hospice is there for,” said Helen.

“There have been so many, like the time we got a helicopter to land in our grounds and take some of our children for a ride. There are many lovely young people who I got to know over the years they were coming to us whose deaths are very hard to deal with. But knowing that you are making a difference comes every day.

"When I hear the children laughing in our playground, or see the devastation of a family who lose a child, and then hear how we have supported them through, I know I have been in the right job. The strength of the families is awe-inspiring. I see what they go through and I question if I could be that strong if it had been one of my two children. Then they go forward and do wonderful things for the hospice in memory of their child, and I feel humbled.

“It is very difficult to leave all of this. I have been a part of something really important, and I have worked with thousands of truly remarkable staff, local businesses, supporters and volunteers who have given so much of their lives to the hospice.

Hospice CEO Simon Hills paid tribute to Helen: “Helen has helped make Bluebell Wood what it is today. We wish her all the best for the future, and thank her for her 17 years’ dedication and commitment to our charity, our cause and to local families.”