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How the world rallied behind a Manchester children’s hospice appeal

The Francis House Easter Chick Appeal received an amazing response from people all over the world
The Francis House Easter Chick Appeal

The staff at Francis House Children’s Hospice in Didsbury got more than they bargained for when they launched their annual Easter appeal.

When they asked for people to help to knit Easter-themed cuddly creatures, they probably never imagined they’d be get an overwhelming 35,000 chicks from all over the world.

Now that’s what you could call a response. One which reflects the great work they do.

Services include respite care, home care, sibling support, end-of-life care and bereavement support.

Francis House Children’s Hospice

The cute creations, which are filled with a small chocolate egg, were donated in their tens of thousands by schools, supermarkets and local businesses before being sold across the region for £2 each.

The Francis House Easter Chick Appeal helps to fund the hospice’s vital work in caring for children and young adults with life-limiting conditions and offering support and respite for the whole family.

This year the fundraising appeal is expected to raise more than £55,000.

Chicks from all over the world

The Francis House Easter Chick Appeal
Rachel Nasiri of Francis House with donations of thousands of creme eggs

“Our Easter Chick Appeal is unique in that it involves not just our wonderful knitters but the whole community going all out in their support”, said Francis House fundraising officer Rachel Nasiri.

“Businesses and individuals collect and donate creme eggs, dozens of volunteers pack the chicks into orders and heaps of fantastic venues sell the chicks and bunnies. It’s a huge team effort.”

This year chicks arrived from such far-flung places as Hong Kong, Canada, Australia and almost 900 from Uganda.

Knitting chicks for charity

The Francis House Easter Chick Appeal
Maria Dunbobbin Francis House chick knitter

Closer to home, Maria Dunbobbin from Cheadle knitted more than 1,400 chicks, some topped with beautiful bows complete with goggle eyes.

Maria even knitted a dozen Super Mario-style chicks which were snapped up by eager fans as soon as they went on sale on the hospice website.

Not all of the chicks arrive ready for sale and a band of volunteers set to work repairing crooked beaks, missing eyes and saggy bottoms that couldn’t hold a chocolate egg.

Mending chicks

The Francis House Easter Chick Appeal
Beryl Wood

Great grandmother Beryl Wood from Denton made a daily 15-mile round trip to the hospice to collect the occupants of chick hospital and single-handedly mended more than 1,000 chicks.

“If I’m not knitting chicks for Francis House, I’m making hats for premature babies or homeless people,” Beryl, 85, said.

“My mum taught me to knit when I was seven and I love it. We’re on this earth to do good and if I can help an amazing charity like Francis House I’m really pleased to help out.”

Cheryl Thompson from Heaton Chapel volunteered her time at the hospice unpacking hundreds of parcels of chicks and making up orders ready for delivery.

“It was always my aim when I finished work that I would do some volunteering because I didn’t want to just sit around and do nothing. Volunteering has given me motivation, knowing that I’ve got something worthwhile to get up for,” said Cheryl.

For every chick and bunny knitted, an egg is needed to fill it. Keen to help on chick ‘stuffing’ sessions were staff from Taylor Wimpey Manchester, CHEP UKI and Equilibrium Financial Planning who took part during paid volunteering hours.

Delivering 35,000 chicks

Delivering 35,000 chicks to participating schools and shops to go on sale required an army of volunteer drivers.

Staff from AO in Bolton swapped a day at their desks and delivered 3,800 chicks to 20 locations around the city centre, Salford, Wythenshawe and Altrincham.

More than 60 schools participated in selling chicks including students from St Vincent’s RC Primary School in Altrincham who sold 800.

Rachel said: “The funds raised through this year’s Easter Chick Appeal will go a long way in supporting the work of Francis House. We rely on the community’s goodwill to continue our services; it is very reassuring in this difficult fundraising climate to see so many supporters still prepared to give their time, efforts and money to help our hospice.”

How to buy a chick

Anyone hoping to buy a chick while stocks last can visit a Google map of more than 70 vendors. You can find that by clicking here

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