Bereaved families and friends have a new way to display a lasting tribute to their loved-ones following the launch of a unique memorial at The Hospice of St Francis.
The Berkhamsted-based charity unveiled a special Memory Tree yesterday (26th March) at its Spring Garden Lane site, made up of 450 autumnal coloured leaves that can be dedicated to a special person who has died.
The eye-catching, handmade sculpture, designed by Hemel-based artist and sculptor Claudia Ashley-Brown, is open to any members of the public wishing to create a memorial - not just those touched by Hospice care.
Its launch coincides with the retirement from the Hospice of its Director, Dr Ros Taylor, MBE, DL, who is to take up a full-time post with Hospice UK at the end of this month.
“I am delighted that the Memory Tree has come to fruition before I leave the Hospice,” said Dr Taylor. “It’s a stunning piece of art and each leaf will not only provide a unique and meaningful way for people to remember a loved one, but will help our Hospice grow further in very symbolic way.
“Our heartfelt thanks go to its talented designer Claudia Ashley-Brown as well as all of our generous donors, who have brought this amazing project to fruition.”
Mum-of-two Julia Bolsom helped launch the new memorial, along with seven other leaf donors, by displaying a leaf in memory of her mother Jean, who died at the Hospice in September 2011, aged 71, following a short battle with cancer.
"When I first heard about The Hospice of St Francis Memory Tree, I knew I wanted to buy a leaf,” said Julia. “Visiting Mum’s grave with young children isn’t easy, but I can’t wait to show them their Grandma’s named leaf on this beautifully designed tree.
“It means a lot to us that we will all have something unique to remember Mum by, but also support and acknowledge the caring role that this remarkable hospice played in our lives.
“Mum spent her final days at the Hospice so it’s always in my thoughts. I very much look forward to coming back and seeing her name and smiling, as I know she would!”
For a minimum donation of £120, each leaf will be engraved with the name of a loved one and once dedicated, will remain in place for a year, at the end of which it can either be renewed or sent to its owners in a special keepsake box.
Eight leaves have already been dedicated, raising over £6k for the Hospice, which relies on voluntary donations for 80% of the £4.7m it costs every year to fund its free care for patients and their families facing life-shortening illness across Herts and Bucks.
Thanks to a generous donation from the son of a former patient, who wishes to remain anonymous, all the costs of the sculpture, plus engraving costs for all 450 leaves, have been covered, meaning that 100% of all the money donated for a leaf will fund patient care.
Vanessa Howden-Smith, The Hospice’s In Memoriam Fundraising Manager, who spearheaded the project, said: "The idea for the tree was agreed following many requests from relatives over the years for lasting memorials such as rose bushes, benches or pieces of equipment at the Hospice.
"We’d rarely been able to grant these requests before but now we hope the Memory Tree will provide a focus for family and friends who wish to have a wonderful way to remember someone special at the Hospice as well as help raise the funds we need every year to reach more people who need our care now and in the future.”