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‘We’re going to have to start buying spades’: Charlie House nears halfway mark in fundraiser for £8m Aberdeen centre

Tracy Johnstone, left, and Susan Crighton from Charlie House at their site at Woodend Hospital. Picture by Kami Thomson

A north-east charity is within touching distance of starting work on a care centre that will transform the lives of hundreds of families.

Charlie House launched its Big Build Appeal in late 2018, setting out plans to create an £8 million facility in the grounds of Woodend Hospital in Aberdeen.

It will mean the parents and siblings of poorly youngsters won’t have to travel more than 100 miles for treatment elsewhere in Scotland.

Today, the organisation has announced its tally stands at £3.6 million.

Builders will be able to start work when the halfway point of £4m is reached, and jubilant charity leaders say they are now thinking about “buying spades” as the milestone approaches.

Dream nearing fruition for founder

Inspired by her own experiences looking after a disabled child, Tracy Johnstone formed Charlie House in 2011.

Even back then, the creation of the care centre was one of her main goals.

With the dream now becoming more of a reality, Tracy urged kind-hearted locals to help the tally reach the £4m mark.

She said: “Every single person in the north-east community can do something.

“From small Scout and Girlguiding groups to school classes, every little bit really will help.

“The list of people who have helped us get this far is very long, and every penny has mattered.

“This centre will really help families by being their hub in the north-east, it will be hugely beneficial.

“There are only two children’s hospices in Scotland at the moment, in Kinross and Balloch.”

The Charlie House appeal was launched with this Evening Express front page story in 2018

Tracy added: “Site investigation work is happening now, so we are moving ahead with things.

“We are hoping to reach the £4m mark and start building within the next 12 months.”

How Covid hit project

The pandemic has knocked back progress, but the Charlie House team is preparing to ramp up fundraising in the months ahead.

Tracy added: “Last February I was cycling in India for Charlie House then came back to lockdown, it was just so sudden.

“We had all these events and fantastic things planned for the year ahead and beyond that we had to cancel.

“At the same time, we had to find ways to help families in isolation as many had children who were shielding.

“So we thought outside the box, and came up with online cocktail evenings and quiz nights during lockdown, and every £5 here and £10 there adds up.

“People were very generous, everyone has been amazing in a year that has been tough for us all.

“Every single hurdle that has been put in front of us, we have jumped over it.”

The latest major contribution towards the centre has come from The Robertson Trust.

The group, which champions charitable causes across Scotland, made a £605,000 donation will pay for the day suite designed to be the “central hub” of activities – with the main kitchen, dining room and lounge area there.

That sum will also go towards nursing and care staff for a three-year period.

The story so far

Commenting on the year-end results, the charity’s director of fundraising Susan Crighton said: “We have always said that we needed to raise £4m before we cut ground.

“This pledge takes us so close to that halfway point that we’re going to have to start buying spades.

“We would like to take this opportunity to thank the people of the north-east for their generous and unwavering support so far.

“The £3.6m total is made up of hundreds if not thousands of individual contributions, each one makes a difference and each one is as important as the other.”

How you can help

Charlie House helps babies, children and young people with life-limiting conditions and their families.

The eight-bedroom care centre will cater for people across Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Moray, Orkney and Shetland.

Artist impressions of how the new centre will look.

The state-of-the-art building will feature a sensory room, library, spa pool, craft room, teen den, soft play area, therapy room, star room for end-of-life care and bereavement, an outdoor play area and sensory gardens as well as adaptable meeting space and office space.

People can donate on the Charlie House website.

Another way to learn more about the plans is visiting the charity’s pop-up display at the Curated Aberdeen indoor market at the Bon Accord Centre.

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