Children help appeal for hospice after sad death of their mum, aged 38

Four young children from Mansfield, whose mum has died at the age of 38, are at the heart of an appeal to raise money for the hospice where she spent her final days.

Respected teacher Victoria Hennessey lost a three-year battle against secondary breast cancer, which had spread to her brain.

But her last wish was to give back to other families who might find themselves in a similar heartbreaking predicament.

And so her children, Lacey, 9, William, 7, Matilda, 5, and George, 3, have thrown themselves enthusiastically into the appeal, with the help of dad (and husband) John.

Victoria Hennessey with her four young children, Lacey, 9, William, 7, Matilda, 5, and George, 3.

One of the youngsters has even gone round his school class, collecting 20ps from fellow pupils.

And in less than a month, the appeal has raised £4,000 for the John Eastwood Hospice in Sutton, where Victoria was cared for in the seven weeks before her passing.

The money will go towards creating a dedicated area at the hospice that can provide play therapy for children.

John, 40, said: "The hospice and its staff made Victoria’s final weeks so positive and dignified. They were some of the most memorable moments for our family.

The John Eastwood Hospice in Sutton, where Victoria Hennessey spent the final seven weeks of her life.

"The amazing staff went above and beyond to accommodate any needs Victoria or our family wanted, 24/7. No task was too big or too small.

"They provided palliative care to Victoria, as well as looking after the mental health and wellbeing of our children.

"They even allowed the little ones to have sleepovers with mummy, which included hot chocolates and midnight feasts.

"They also arranged small parties for Victoria to enjoy, making memories with her closest family and friends.

A family hug for Victoria, John and their four children.

"The hospice is basically a hotel on steroids for people in their final moments.”

The Hennessey family live in Berry Hill. Victoria was a senior lead practitioner and director of science at Tupton Hall School in Chesterfield, while John works as an intelligence analyst for a police special operations unit.

Their lives were turned upside down when Victoria was diagnosed in 2019. But John says that, even in her last days, she was “looking at the positives in life” and “wanting to give to others”.

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He said: “Her last wish was that, in this time of grief, anyone thinking of spending money on flowers and gifts should actually donate to the hospice.

"It was a place she sought comfort, reassurance and dignity.

"The children’s area will allow youngsters to gain therapy through play, having valuable play time to give them positive, lasting memories when their parents or grandparents pass.”

The Mansfield Road hospice, which is a 12-bed specialist palliative care unit, has been blown away by the Hennessey family’s generosity.

Manager Tracey Joyce said: “We have been profoundly touched by the generous donations people have been giving to the hospice for a children’s area in memory of Victoria.

"We are also deeply moved by the feedback Victoria’s family has given about the way she and her family were cared for by the hospice.”

Rarely can the words of Dame Cicely Saunders, pioneer of the modern-day hospice movement, have been so accurately reflected.

She said: “You matter because you are you. You matter to the last moment of life, and we will do all we can, not only to help you die peacefully but also to live until you die.”