Armed with just elf coats and suspenders, a group of teenagers are busy making Christmas Cheer Ballons – all necessary to go to families with cancer in hospital
Armed with just elf coats and suspenders, a group of teenagers are busy making Christmas Cheer Ballons – all necessary to go to families with cancer in hospital.
The SOSC Foundation, a UK-based charity set up by SASNAC School headteacher Brendan Spiteri, sets up crafts for hospital patients, as well as flowers, cards and wrapped presents.
The Christmas Cheer Balloons are handmade using stallion-nesting china and feathers – which Spiteri decided to use after he saw that the sheep used for the decorations on his school’s wasp-laden buildings have feathers – a no-no in the non-domestic trade.
The Cheer Balloons are three-metre long and are made by knitting, pipe-organ playing, guitar playing and bell-ringing groups at school and young people who have been admitted to children’s wards at five hospitals in the UK.
He goes to about nine hospitals each week to collect the helium-filled helium balloons, stocking them with wreaths and baby bibs and stamping on a red ribbon, and before heading back to the school to collect them.
“Santa Claus needs Christmas Cheer Balloons for the children and other residents,” Spiteri says. “These patients have gone through a horrendous time for the rest of their lives but we are just giving them a little festive cheer as it is, not materialistic, but pure entertainment.”
One of the volunteers is 15-year-old Lucy Adams, who said: “We do all of this for the children who are in hospital, and for the staff to make them feel better. Some of them just want a few flowers and a teddy bear, for example.”
Other volunteers include 14-year-old Roslyn Hayles and 14-year-old Rachelon Esmond. Roslyn says: “The hospital staff are looking forward to Christmas because they get to feel safe and have someone take care of them, and we get to make them happy with something that’s really colourful.”
Some of the charities the Cheer Balloon project helps, include Motor Neurone Disease UK, The Pensions Foundation and the People’s Pension Cares and Toys Campaign.
Some of the children named on the Christmas Cheer Balloons are still in hospital but will be involved in fundraising, while others are in remission.
Earlier this year, the Cheer Balloon project collected more than 1,600 footballs, which it gave to the Derby Cares project, which is working with Newcastle United FC to get more people active.
In 2012, the Christmas Balloons helped 30 children at Belfast’s Royal Victoria Infirmary celebrate Christmas.
Whatever you do to help the Cheer Balloon project, Sophie Sam says, it’s “just the love you feel as you hear the children screaming and laughing and seeing them taken away from the chaos of hospital, to something that is easy, bright and fun. There’s nothing better than giving a holiday in a coat, a sweater and socks.”
If you’d like to help, contact the SOSC Foundation on [email protected]