In 2018 the Friends of Bedford Hospital raised £20,000 towards the colourful new outdoor play area for Riverbank Children's Ward, which you can see from big windows in the corridor nearby. We are now very happy indeed, in early 2019, to be raising money to give Riverbank a new indoor play area.
Back in November 2018 Janet, the conductor of our Christmas Concert, and I visited Riverbank with Janet's husband Barry, to discuss their hopes and plans for the improvements. Our meeting was with the Ward Manager and with the three Play Leaders, delightful young women with smiles that would light up any room. They wear uniforms in a soft bright pink so that they stand out from all the clinical staff, and a firm rule is that they never administer medicines or treatments. They simply provide fun and entertainment. If a child is too sick to go to the play area, they bring the entertainment to his bedside and adapt it to his needs.
We held our meeting in their existing indoor play area, which the nurses had decorated most beautifully for Christmas. It had geometric snow crystals hanging all over the ceiling, a Christmas post box and a marvellous great big chimney breast for Santa to arrive through. That was lovely but Barry, with his engineering background, spotted immediately that the room needs much brighter, warmer and more sympathetic lighting, which we aim to achieve. The lighting at present is institutional, dark and gloomy.
Another priority is to create a welcoming soft play area with equipment that is bright and colourful, easy to keep clean and safe for babies and children with special needs. It also has to be practical. For example ball parks are soft and they look very attractive, but they are impossible to keep clean to Hospital standards. They would also provide too much temptation for the teenagers, who, the Ward Manager predicted, would throw the balls all over the place.
We plan that teenagers will have their own area where they can socialise and listen to music that is more sophisticated than Old MacDonald Had a Farm. Children of all ages will be catered for.
During our meeting a four year old boy and his mother were playing trains on the floor in the indoor play area. He had built a great big layout for the push-along wooden trains, with lots of buildings and extras. He was totally absorbed in his game. He was having the time of his life. Even his mother was looking relaxed, despite all the worries she must be going through.
That little boy's face said it all. Good quality play was taking his mind off his illness. He had completely forgotten about any of the unpleasant treatments or the fact he was missing home.
Anything we can do to take a child's mind off their suffering, even for a short time, is worth every effort we can put into our fundraising.
We will be delighted to receive any contributions, large or small, to help us achieve this goal.
Our Christmas Concert raised £1,305, of which every penny went to our project for Riverbank. Please contact me if you would like to make a donation, or run an event of your own to help us raise the funds we need.
With warmest thanks,