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Orla’s story: Our Center Parcs break was the best gift we could have been given

In March this year, we gifted Orla and her family a special holiday to Center Parcs Woburn Forest. They had one goal: to make as many precious memories together as they could.

Since 2016, our partnership with Center Parcs has provided seriously ill children and their families the opportunity to spend quality time together and create cherished memories, whether at their local children’s hospice or at home. This year, we have gifted 25 Center Parcs breaks to families like Orla’s, enabling them to rest, recharge, and enjoy fun-filled moments together.

“Something we will remember forever” 

When Orla was ten months old, she was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Her family’s world changed overnight. Now, nearly thirteen years old, she has undergone several rounds of chemotherapy and operations, and is a wheelchair user. As the tumour has developed, Orla has also suffered several haemorrhages and lives with significant learning and physical disabilities. Nobody knows what the future looks like for Orla.

“Last year, we received the news that Orla’s tumour had grown significantly again. She had two operations and suffered more complications as a result. Her recovery from the operation was long,” says Orla’s mum, Susan.

“To hear the news that we were being gifted a break at Center Parcs was amazing. The break came at the perfect time, and it allowed us to enjoy some peace away from the hospital. We could enjoy just being together.”

“Orla has a big personality. She loves knocking things over, like a domino rally or ten pin bowling. When we got to Center Parcs and realised we could go ten pin bowling, we knew she would love it. We had the best time.” 

The family enjoyed lots of different activities during their break, from aerial tree trekking and interactive squash, to watching the wildlife and cycling around the trails.

“Most families take a bike ride together for granted, but this is something we have never been able to do. At Center Parcs, Orla and I were able to cycle around together using a wheelchair bike, with Eddie and Simon on their own bikes. For the first time since Orla’s diagnosis, we could all cycle together! That is something we will remember forever.”

Orla and her mum smiling. Orla is wearing a bicycle helmet.

Since Orla’s diagnosis, Orla and her family have received vital support from their local children’s hospice, Keech Hospice Care.

“The palliative care team at Keech have supported us during some extremely difficult times. There have been times when we thought Orla would die, and they have been there through it all. They visit us at home, sometimes daily, and help with things like changing Orla’s medical equipment.”

The hospice’s support extends to the entire family, providing emotional and practical support.

“I’ve always found I could say more to Orla’s palliative care nurse than I could to my family and friends. She understands, she doesn’t judge, and she tells me how everything I’m feeling is normal.

“Eddie has also received sibling support through a group that meets once a month. When things are very hard and Orla is having yet more surgery or treatment, the support that Eddie receives from Keech is so vital for his well-being.”

Helping families make the most of every moment

Since our partnership with Center Parcs began in 2016, we have gifted over 130 breaks to families of seriously ill children. Together, we aim to help make every moment count for seriously ill children and their families across the country. We are incredibly grateful to Center Parcs colleagues for their incredible support and fundraising over so many years.

This #ChidlrensHospiceWeek, please support families like Orla’s and the incredible hospices who care for them by making a donation. With your support, Together for Short Lives can continue to be there for the 99,000 seriously ill children across the UK, helping families make the most of every precious moment they have together.

Family stories