Giant swan floats across MK for Willen Hospice

Willen Hospice marked the start of national Hospice Care Week (5-11 October) by touring a brand new member of its fundraising team, Sam the Swan!

The unique float, named after Sam Thornton from Niftylift, who created it for the Hospice, took its maiden voyage today (Monday) to raise awareness of the Hospice across the city.

The idea for the float was born during lockdown when the Hospice team had to think up new ways to get to the community when they couldn’t hold their usual bucket collections and fundraising events. Niftylift kindly stepped in to create the float using their facilities, parts and the skills of engineer Sam, who was on furlough. MKM builder’s merchants assisted by providing materials, and the Friends of Willen Hospice donated £500 of funds they raised to cover costs.

Nikki Poole, Senior Community Fundraiser, has managed the project. She said: “We are thrilled to unveil our new float and show people the absolutely fantastic work carried out by Sam. We can’t thank Niftylift, MKM and Friends of Willen Hospice for making our vision a reality.

“Hospice Care Week is an apt time to launch our float as the theme across the country is ‘This is what it takes’. At Willen Hospice, we know it takes our community – people like Sam, and those who will see our float and make a donation – to help keep our doors open and our nurses caring every day.”

The float and the team with it will strictly observe social distancing rules, and at the moment, it will not be encouraging crowds to visit it. In the long term, the float will provide a fun experience for children who will be able to sit on and control its moveable head.

Roger Bowden, Niftylift Chairman said: “Willen Hospice is a charity that is close to our hearts, so we were thrilled to be able to help them in the creation of Sam the Swan. We’re living through challenging times, so it’s more important than ever to recognise and support the important work that Willen Hospice does for those in need. We at Niftylift wish them well in their fundraising efforts and look forward to seeing Sam the Swan in action.”

The float visited all those involved in its creation today, and also spent time at Woburn Sands Emporium and Frosts Garden Centres to raise awareness of the Hospice to their customers.

People who see the float are being encouraged to take a photo of it and share on the Hospice Facebook, Twitter and Instagram channels using #SamtheSwan.

Willen Hospice is one of more than 200 charitable hospices across the UK taking part in Hospice Care Week (5–11 October), led by the national hospice and end of life care charity, Hospice UK, highlighting what it takes to provide care to those who need it most. This year, many charitable hospices, like Willen are facing financial challenges, with the support they receive from the public being more important than ever before.

Hospice UK estimates that since the COVID crisis begin in March, collectively hospices have lost in the region of £70 million in fundraised income. Willen, like many hospices in England relies on 70% of their funding (62% in Scotland and 74% in Wales) from public donations through charity shops and fundraisers, which has not been possible during the pandemic.

Peta Wilkinson, Willen Hospice CEO said: “The pandemic has had a devastating effect on our fundraising, with a predicted loss on £800,000 over the summer period alone. I hope that Sam the Swan will help raise awareness that we’re here, and we’re still caring for local patients and their families. Thank you so much to Niftylift, MKM and Friends of Willen Hospice for their support.”

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