The J’s Hospice supports young adults aged 16-40 with life-limiting conditions across Essex and their families. When Denise first set up the charity in 2003, she did not predict that it would become such an important source of care for so many families across the county.
Denise first realised that there was a need for specific hospice care for young adults when she was caring for her son Jonathan, who was born in 1983.
When he was just three years old, Jonathan was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy which is a genetic disorder that causes the muscles throughout the body to weaken and degenerate.
From the start, Denise and her husband, Allan, were determined that Jonathan would live a full and happy life. As he grew older, his mobility decreased and he had to use a wheelchair, but that didn’t stop the Whiffin family from travelling to France, Belgium and Holland.
As Jonathan got older, his health deteriorated and he spent time in a children’s hospice. The care he received was excellent but, as most of the children in there were under five, he had no social interaction with his peers which was hard for him. Denise could see that there was a lack of age-appropriate care for older teenagers.
Jonathan died in Broomfield Hospital in 2002, just before his 19th birthday.
It was a year later that Denise got the idea of setting up a hospice for young adults in his memory. She spoke to her church minister who gave her his support and then five of her friends agreed to help. The hospice grew from there and was called ‘The J’s Hospice’ after Jonathan. It gained charitable status in September 2003 and then launched on 1st March 2004 which would have been his 21st birthday.
For the first few years, Denise and her friends worked hard at fundraising until, in 2009, The J’s Hospice was able to appoint a Director of Nursing and a Fundraiser. Then the charity got CQC registration in 2010 and began outreach working, becoming the first hospice service in the country to care for young adults aged 16-40 within the comfort of their own homes.
Denise explained: “The young adults that we met said that they wanted to remain in their homes with their family and friends doing what they enjoy for as long as they could. The J’s ‘hospice-at-home’ service helps them to do this.”
Since then, this pioneering model of care has grown from strength to strength. The J’s Hospice currently supports around 100 young adults across Essex with a variety of complex needs, providing tailored nursing, respite, emotional care, advice and social activities. It is now part of the Havens Hospices charity.
The J’s Hospice and its supporters hold events to fund this specialist care including the Chelmsford Marathon and 3K Family Fun Run, which are both on Sunday 20th October, as well at the upcoming Autumn Ball.
Denise is delighted that the charity has achieved so much in memory of Jonathan. She explained: “I know that Jonathan would have loved what The J’s Hospice does because it would have given him a bit more independence and the life that he would love to actually have had. This work is so, so important, especially when there is no other specialist hospice at home care for these young adults with life-limiting conditions.
“The J’s Hospice receives minimum funding from the Government and so it relies on the generosity of the public to continue this work – which is why we’re organising the Autumn Ball. It will be a lovely evening so we hope that lots of people will join us to have a great time, raising much-needed funds for a very deserving cause.”
Tickets for this black-tie event at The Lion House in Boreham on Friday 4th October cost £55 per person or, for tables of eight to ten, a discounted rate of £50 per person. This includes a welcome drink and a delicious three course meal with wine.
Doors open at 7.30pm and there will also be a raffle, silent auction and dancing before the celebrations end at midnight.
To buy your tickets and help to celebrate 16 years of this ground-breaking Essex charity, please contact Denise and the Friends of The J’s by Friday 27th September – firstname.lastname@example.org or 01245 475052.