By Liz Crudgington
A Palm Bay youngster who fell ill on her 10th birthday last December and faced spending Christmas in hospital has delivered toys to QEQM Hospital after fundraising to make sure other poorly children receive gifts over the festive period.
Betsy Boardman, 11, was worried Father Christmas wouldn’t visit the children on Rainbow Ward so decided to give him a helping hand.
With a little help from mum Sarah, the Palm Bay Primary School pupil delivered a car-full of toys to the hospital after collecting more than £1,300. Another £400-worth of gifts were ordered from a wish list she set up for the ward.
Sarah said: “Betsy fell ill on her birthday in December last year, and four days later was admitted to Rainbow Ward where she spent the next 10 days.
“At times it looked like she wouldn’t make it home in time for Christmas, although thankfully we were discharged on 22 December.
“When we got home she mentioned she would have been really sad to have had to spend Christmas in hospital, and was worried the children wouldn’t get any presents, so I said perhaps we could buy them some for next year.
“But she wanted to do something to raise the money so we could buy lots and lots of presents.”
Despite being diagnosed with mixed connective tissue disease, a collection of auto-immune disorders that includes arthritis and lupus, Betsy set herself the challenge of walking 10 miles in October to raise funds.
In the end, she completed more than double her target, clocking up 22 miles during the month – including a walk along the Thanet coastline with some of her friends and classmates.
Sarah said: “When she said she wanted to do 10 miles I was a bit worried it would be too much for her but she did fantastically well.
“It was a massive achievement for her and our friends and family started spreading the word and soon we had lots of people wanting to donate so I set up a fundraising page.
“I was amazed to see the donations coming in, and the presents arriving from the wishlist. It started as a little pile and it just grew and grew.
“She was over the moon and we are so proud of her. We know how awful it is to be in hospital at Christmas, so it means a lot to be able to help other families in the same situation this year.”
Betsy and her parents, together with her brother, visited the ward on her birthday to hand over the gifts to staff.
Lizzie Warner, charity marketing and projects manager for East Kent Hospitals Charity, said the donation would make a huge difference to the young patients.
She said: “We were absolutely delighted to welcome Betsy back to the ward with her impressive haul of presents.
“As she and her family know all too well, it is no fun to be in hospital for Christmas. But thanks to her generosity, children and young people who are in that position this year will have plenty to keep them entertained and to make them smile.
“We are so grateful to her for her determination to help others and to everyone who supported her.”
For more information on how to support patients and staff this festive season via East Kent Hospitals Charity visit https://www.ekhcharity.org.uk/get-involved/donate/festive-giving/