The much loved, annual tradition saw hundreds of locals come together to create a joyous, festive atmosphere at the baby hospice in Middlesbrough.
When does Christmas start for you?
Is it the moment the latest John Lewis Christmas ad is released?
Is it the time you open the first door of your advent calendar?
Or is it the point, as it was this weekend, when Zoë’s Place officially switched its Christmas lights on?
“The local community are just incredible”
The weekend’s Christmas light switch on marked the latest edition of what has become a much anticipated annual event from a children’s hospice that has captured the hearts and minds of its local community.
Zoë’s Place General Manager, Mark Guidery, said: “The Christmas lights have been going on about seven years now, but it’s only in the past four to five years it’s reached the scale it has now.”
“Without the help of all the incredible volunteers that come along and help to put the lights up, we wouldn’t be able to do it, so it’a big, joint community effort.”
Featuring over 30,000 LED’s, the transformation of the Victorian era Crossbeck House into a Christmas wonderland of enchantment, featuring festive stalls and a gingerbread house – home to that afternoon’s special guests from Lapland – was incredible to see, as were the throngs of people who turned out to support the event.
“The local community is just incredible,” Mark said.
“It’s raining, it’s cold, and there’s still lots and lots of people out there having a good time.
“We’ve had a wonderful choir singing, Santa and Mrs Santa have been incredibly busy.
“All I want to say is a huge thank you to everyone in this area that continue to support this small hospice.”
A much loved asset of the local community
Described as a “community project since day one”, Zoë’s Place has been a beacon of light for families all across the North-East since 2004.
Mark freely admitted that “the word ‘hospice’ can conjure up all kinds of images to people.
He said: “Children that come here are very young, new born babies and toddlers up to their sixth birthday.”
“It’s a very fun environment, the children that come here do what children do, they want to play and have fun.
“They all have life threatening and life shortening conditions, but that doesn’t stop them from living life to the full.
“And that’s the whole purpose of Zoë’s Place.
“Respite care is the key to the work our nurses give here.
“To enable families to stay together, give mum’s and dad’s a bit of space so that can go off to do things that we all take for granted, while their children are being cared for here by our incredible team of nurses.”
“We always need volunteers”
But of course this type of specialist care comes at a significant cost and cannot happen without events like this weekend’s light switch on and the tremendous support of all who contribute to the cause.
And Mark was keen for anyone inspired to help out to “just get in touch” and “find out more about the hospice.”
He said: “Zoë’s place is only here because of people’s generosity.”
“We always need volunteers. We need people to do events for us, people to take part in things like the Great North Run or the Santa Ride* that is coming up, which is incredible.
“I like to think when people make a donation to the hospice, it’s theirs, they have a sense of ownership over it, so come and see us, I’d love that.”
*The Santa Ride in aid of Zoë’s Place takes place tomorrow, starting from Thornaby Town Centre and riding across Stockton and Middlesbrough before completing their journey at Kirkleatham Hall, so make sure you keep an eye out for that.
Mark and the team at Zoë’s place would like to extend their thanks to “our friends at BT, who have been incredible since day one, all of our volunteers and companies like EE” that have all helped to make this weekend’s event possible.