�2m raised for Treehouse Appeal

DELIGHTED fundraisers dreaming of a new hospice for youngsters in Suffolk and north Essex have today received the perfect Christmas present.

Thrilled families and staff from East Anglia's Children's Hospices (EACH) are celebrating after hitting the �2million mark in the charity's popular Treehouse Appeal.

It means they are now two-thirds of the way to reaching their target and a giant step closer to building and equipping a specialist centre for life-threatened youngsters and their loved ones.

Since it was launched in March, the Treehouse Appeal has caught the imaginations of fundraisers who have dug deep in a bid to find the �3m needed for the six-bedroom facility off Bixley Road, in Ipswich, which will care for children in Suffolk and North Essex.

The latest milestone has been warmly welcomed by staff, supporters and families – including that of four-year-old Joseph Rea.

The youngster, from Purdis Farm in Ipswich, suffered serious brain damage when he was born and has cerebral palsy.

He and his family receive support from EACH, including short-break care and music therapy.

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His mother Helen, 42, said: 'People really seem to have taken the appeal to heart, it's very touching. It is fantastic that it has reached �2m already. Hopefully the good work will continue.

'It is exciting to think that it is a step closer to completion.'

Countless businesses, groups and individuals have thrown their weight behind the appeal.

They include Coes of Ipswich who were set a challenge of raising �10,000 and smashed their target – raking in more than �21,000.

William Coe said: 'When we were approached by EACH to help raise funds, it was an easy decision as it is such an important cause.

'All of the staff have got behind the appeal.

'They came up with lots of ideas and set about organising everything themselves.

'We've had abseiling challenges, raffles, car boot sales, sponsored walks and a fashion show to name a few. As a company, we matched the first �100 of our employees' sponsorship for events.

'I have visited the current hospice and have seen how urgently a new facility is needed. This challenge has been such a rewarding exercise and I would urge anyone who has yet to raise funds to do so.'

The East of England Co-operative Society has also raised �19,000 – with �15,000 for the Treehouse Appeal and �4,000 to support the work of EACH across the region. Chief executive Richard Samson said: 'We have supported the hospice movement for many years and we are very pleased to be able to hand over �19,000 to such a worthy cause.

'It is comforting to know that it will directly benefit children and their families across Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex.'

The company is continuing its fundraising efforts through its 2011 Visions of East Anglia calendar, with 50p from each sale going to the Treehouse Appeal.

Melanie Chew, EACH director of fundraising, said the charity would like to thank everyone who had helped to reach the �2m landmark – but stressed there was still a long way to go.

'Individuals, groups and businesses have dedicated a lot of time and effort and have proved that funds can be raised even in difficult financial times,' she said. 'Although today is a cause for celebration, we must not forget that we need to raise a total of �3m.

'We can't do this without the support of the public and I hope those who have yet to donate are inspired by the �2m announcement.'

• To find out more about the Treehouse Appeal visit www.each.org.uk.