Retired teachers, Pat, 82, and her husband Ross, 86, were part of the Turton and Bolton Derian House support groups before the hospice was built.
As volunteers, they would spread the word of the Derian House appeal by speaking at local schools, businesses and events.
At the time, Pat was often recognised in her village as the ‘Derian House lady’.
“I would do a lot of speaking – telling people about the concept of Derian House and what the hospice would do. It really was an experience.” Said Pat. “I was still teaching at the time so I would volunteer for the group on my days off and in the evenings.
“As volunteers we would take visitors on tours. People were always very impressed – and so they should be as the hospice is fantastic – even more so today.
“We became part of the Derian House appeal after we met with Margaret Vinten, who we were introduced to through our local vicar.” Said Pat.
“I was quite young then but it was like it was yesterday. We began with our own support group in Turton, and one lady in our group had a nursing home where we would all go to meet.
“Another lady in our village would have a ‘Derian House Day’ every year. She would dedicate her whole house to the hospice – even the bedrooms upstairs! And people would donate so much stuff to her that we would end up with more than what we started with.”
The Turton support group for Derian House later merged with the Bolton group. All of the support groups throughout the North West raised enough money to kick-start the hospice build.
“I remember the first children to visit Derian House when it opened in 1993.” Said Pat. “I visited that first day and all the committee enjoyed a lunch together.
“The children began to come in as well as their parents, and their brothers and sisters. Trish who was the cook at the time had a hand-written book in which she would note down the meals each family member liked most and would make them regularly.
“I remember we once had BBC Radio Lancashire come and do a morning show at Derian House. And the reporter who came kept saying ‘where did you get these carpets? They’re awful!’” Laughed Pat. “But he did say ‘everybody here is so happy’ – which is something you continue to hear from visitors today.
“When that particular radio program went out it was very popular, everybody was talking about Derian House.
“Another memory I have is of a press interview with a little boy who was staying at Derian. They asked him what he thought of the hospice and he said ‘the beds are lovely and the food’s lovely and the people are lovely’.
“I remember one child was allowed to have one of his friend’s stay over with him. The friend called his mother the day after to tell her how wonderful the hospice was – how good the food was, and how there were all these things to do. He didn’t want to leave!” Laughed Pat.
“At that time we had a Derian dog suit – our mascot – but they forgot to put in any holes for eyes! So we had this rather enormous vicar who volunteered to wear it at a carol service and he couldn’t see a thing. It poured it down with rain and we had to help him find his way around!
“The Derian dog was everywhere, and then of course the mascot was changed not so long ago. It’s Derian Danni now.
“And things have just built up from how I remember the hospice.” Said Pat. “It’s amazing. Now knowing that the children and their families can go on holiday – that’s incredible.
“And when I read Danni’s Diary I see that all the stories about people who want to support Derian House are still there. As well as the stories about the children and their families which are often so heartrending yet beautiful.
“Ross and I have been very lucky to have had two healthy children. My daughter is 60 now and my son is 58. The stories you read just make you so grateful.
“The staff at Derian House are just wonderful. They do such lovely things – and it’s such a lovely place.
“We will always support the hospice.” Said Pat. “We still visit for the Open Garden events.”
“It has been amazing to see Derian House grow from an idea to what it is now. It has been there for many families over the years, and I hope it can help many more families in the future.”