Earl of Arundel hosts Gala Dinner in aid of Chestnut Tree House

On Saturday 12 March, the President of Chestnut Tree House children’s hospice, Henry Fitzalan Howard, Earl of Arundel, hosted a Gala Dinner in aid of the charity. The event took place at Arundel Castle with 180 guests, including the Duchess of Norfolk, the High Sheriff of West Sussex and charity Patrons and Trustees, as well as new and existing Chestnut Tree House supporters.

Inviting guests to be part of the future of Chestnut Tree House, the evening provided an opportunity to hear about upcoming plans and the importance of future proofing the hospice to ensure that children and their families continue to get the best possible care.

“Chestnut Tree House is very close to my heart, and it was an honour to host this Gala Dinner and meet so many people who generously support the charity and want to be part of its future. Across Sussex and South East Hampshire, there are hundreds of children and young people with life-limiting conditions who require specialist care. And even more parents and family members who need help and support. It’s vital that Chestnut Tree House is there for each family on their journey – through the good days, the bad days, and the last days – now and in the future.”

Henry Fitzalan Howard, Earl of Arundel

The Gala Dinner began with luxury transfers from the Arundel Castle gates to the entrance, courtesy of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, who supported Chestnut Tree House as their 2021 charity of the year. Guests then enjoyed a Nyetimber Reception in the Library, followed by a three-course meal in the Barons’ Hall, speeches, and a performance by Bernardi Music Group’s String Academy. The evening closed with musical entertainment from Chestnut Tree House Ambassador, Joe Stilgoe, and his band.

Anna Jones, Director of Children’s Services at Chestnut Tree House spoke about the different types of care offered by the hospice – from fun activities and short respite breaks to end of life care and bereavement support – and the growing demand for paediatric palliative care services. Andy Fletcher, CEO of Together for Short Lives also spoke to outline the national landscape of children’s palliative care and highlight the increasing demand on children’s hospices like Chestnut Tree House.

Research shows that the number of children in England with life-limiting or life-threatening conditions has continued to rise over the last 17 years. Since Chestnut Tree House opened in 2003, children with certain conditions are living longer than ever expected, with increasingly complex needs. But there have been no significant changes to the space and configuration of the hospice.

“We need to ensure that children and young people continue to get the best possible care and support, in an environment which can address all medical needs and complexities,” explains Anna Jones. “It’s vital that we make Chestnut Tree House fit for the future, by making certain changes to the hospice building – like installing improved mechanical hoisting and piped oxygen – as well as seeking support for our day-to-day care costs. We’re here for children and families every step of the way, but this is only possible thanks to the generosity of the local community – we couldn’t do it without it you.”

Anna also introduced Lee Nash to speak, so that guests could hear first-hand how Chestnut Tree House helps local children, young people and their families. Lee’s son, Toby, 16, was born with a rare and complex congenital heart condition, Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, which resulted in him having his first open heart surgery at just five days old and a further six by the time he was 10. Lee described the different ways Chestnut Tree House has helped to support the whole family over the years – from offering short respite breaks and step-down care when Toby has been in hospital, to sibling counselling and support.

“Chestnut Tree House have provided us with a sanctuary when things are tough,” explains Lee. “They have allowed us to spend quality time as a family, building memories for a future. Not knowing how long that future will last but knowing that Chestnut Tree House will be there throughout our journey and beyond.”

Guests were asked to consider pledging support to Chestnut Tree House to ensure the hospice can continue to provide vital care and support to local children and families. At the start of the evening, Roger Forsdyke, Willmott Dixon’s Managing Director, London & South, presented a cheque for £36,000, as part of the organisation’s ongoing fundraising commitment to the charity.

“On behalf of Chestnut Tree House, I would like to say a special thank you to Lee Nash for sharing his story; Nyetimber and Gusto Wines for kindly sponsoring this event; and the Joe Stilgoe Trio and Bernardi Music Group’s String Academy for providing such wonderful entertainment,” said Henry, Earl of Arundel. “But mostly, I wish to thank all the guests for joining me at Arundel Castle and being part of Chestnut Tree House’s future. It’s a very special charity that plays a vital role in so many families’ lives.”

Over £4 million is needed every year to provide hospice care for local children and their families. Only a small proportion of this comes from central government. The rest – around £10,000 per day – comes from donations, fundraising, gifts in Wills, our charity shops and the Chestnut Tree House lottery.

Lord Arundel at the Gala Dinner