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29th March 2019

Dermot O’Leary visits St Helena patients and bereaved families

Dermot O’Leary visited St Helena this week as one of the stops on his Toto the Ninja Cat book tour, meeting patients, families and children.

Dermot O'Leary and children supported by St Helena

St Helena invited members of its Starbursts support group, which is run for children who have lost a parent or grandparent, and their families, to attend the exclusive book reading at The Hospice on Thursday afternoon.

The families spent an hour meeting, chatting and having their photos taken with Dermot and enjoyed a reading from his children’s book, Toto the Ninja Cat and the Great Snake Escape.

After spending time with the Starburst families, Dermot was then given a tour of The Hospice by matron, Sue O’Neill, meeting patients staying at The Hospice for support managing complex care needs, and their families. He even had a cuddle with The Hospice resident cat, Paddy.

The catering team at St Helena also provided refreshments for the event, and even baked a special cake for Dermot, decorated with an image of Toto the Ninja Cat.

Dermot also kindly gave signed copies of his new book to all the children supported by Starbursts.

The TV and radio presenter and author, who is also patron of St Helena, said: “As a local boy, being back in my home town of Colchester, it was great to visit St Helena, support the great work of the hospice and to meet the wonderful families supported by Starbursts.

“The children were full of energy and were a joy to chat to! As a big cat lover, it was also lovely to have a cuddle with The Hospice’s cat, Paddy.”

Sophie-Leigh Brunton, who attends Starbursts, said: “I was chatting to Dermot about the challenges and events I’m doing this year for St Helena and trying to get him to do Walk of Memories in Mersea too!

“He got along with the children so well, he was very interactive. It has been really nice meeting him today – really special – and great memories to take away.”

Lauren Davis said: “It was very nice to meet him again. He’s such a lovely and genuine guy.”

Lauren’s dad, Andrew Davis, added: “It’s nice to know that he came to his local hospice, Colchester, and came somewhere you wouldn’t expect to see him. It’s nice to know he cares.”

Cherie Smith, St Helena’s Family Support Lead, said: “We would like to say a big thank you to Dermot for visiting us and making some happy memories for the children and families we support through Starbursts.

“We all really enjoyed having him with us, hearing about his book and sharing cake with him. It was so kind and generous of him to give all our Starburst families signed copies of his book too.”

St Helena helps local people face incurable illness and bereavement, supporting them, their families and carers.

Starbursts is a monthly drop-in bereavement support group for young bereaved families. It enables children to meet children, teenagers to meet teenagers, and parents to meet parents in similar situations. At each drop-in, there is an opportunity to remember the person who has died through a range of creative activities alongside having fun and making friends.


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