Doncaster mum’s gift for grieving families

Bluebell Wood nurses Lesley Spencer, Julia Ibbotson and Mandy Binney, (L-R), with hampers donated by Cheryl Watson of Ashleigh's Gift. Cheryl's daughter Ashleigh died, aged 17, at Bluebell Wood in January 2013 of cancer. The hampers contain essential items to help other bereaved families who use the hospice.

Bluebell Wood nurses Lesley Spencer, Julia Ibbotson and Mandy Binney, (L-R), with hampers donated by Cheryl Watson of Ashleigh's Gift. Cheryl's daughter Ashleigh died, aged 17, at Bluebell Wood in January 2013 of cancer. The hampers contain essential items to help other bereaved families who use the hospice.

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A kind-hearted mother who lost her 17-year-old daughter to cancer is creating hampers to help other bereaved families.

Cheryl Watson, of Intake, set up Ashleigh’s Gift and started creating the hampers in memory of her daughter, Ashleigh Marie Parks, who died of a very rare and aggressive form of cancer in January 2013.

Ashleigh was diagnosed with brain and spine cancer in April 2011 and started going to Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice 16 months later, in August 2012.

Cheryl said: “Ashleigh loved it. It wasn’t just there for her, it was for us all to be together as a family.

“It was hard to believe Ashleigh was so poorly, she looked so well. December came and Ashleigh very quickly began to deteriorate. On Christmas Eve we were rushed to Bluebell Wood for what was to be the last time.

“The staff made it a magical Christmas for us all as much as they could.

In the early hours of January 4, with me and her dad holding her hands, Ashleigh peacefully passed away. To me she was just fast asleep, my beautiful girl gone.

“The care didn’t stop there, we were then moved to a private suite called forget-me-not where our bedroom was next to Ashleigh’s.

“We could be with her as much as we wanted, family could came to visit and say their goodbyes and we got to spend 12 precious more days with her.

The care is amazing, I couldn’t have thought of a better place for us to spend our final days with Ashleigh.

“After the loss I just didn’t know what to do, everything seemed pointless, I didn’t want to get up in a morning.

“I knew I had to do something and I decided I wanted to do something in Ashleigh’s memory. Then it came to me; as we were rushed in on Christmas Eve we forgot all sorts and shops were closed. It got me thinking that the last thing anyone needs at a time like this is remembering what to take with you.

“My idea was to provide every family who lose their child with a hamper containing essentials and some small comforts. The boxes can then be used as memory boxes when they have used the items. The hampers contain shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste and brushes, shower gel, deodorant, a flannel and other toiletries.

“They also have a notebook and pen, biscuits, sweets, chocolate, colouring books and crayons, a small bottle of wine and beer for mum and dad, and also a very important Ashleigh’s Gift bear.

The end of life suites give families time to say goodbye and staff there also provide counselling, sibling support, therapies and more.

Sarah Branson, Care Team Manager at Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice, said: “Families who stay in our end of life suites are always so grateful to receive Ashleigh’s Gift.

“It’s a comforting and thoughtful basket of items with such a personal touch.

“We’d like to thank Cheryl for providing Ashleigh’s Gift, it’s such a lovely tribute to Ashleigh and a really valued gift for families.”

To find out more about Ashleigh’s Gift and how you can help, search for ‘Ashleigh’s Gift’ on Facebook or e-mail Cheryl at chezze555@msn.com.