A schoolgirl from Maidstone is fronting a unique TV campaign to raise awareness of Demelza Hospice Care for Children in the South East.
Caitlin Goodsell (11) from Kingswood, who is herself helped by the children’s charity, recites a poem which accompanies a 30-second commercial going out in the Meridian and London region promoting the work of Demelza.
The commercial has been made possible thanks to Kent-based Swale Heating generously donating £26,000-worth of their own air-time to the charity, which provides vital care to seriously ill babies, children, young people and their families across Kent, South East London and East Sussex.
The heating firm is currently advertising its own services around TV favourites such as Coronation Street, Jeremy Kyle and Judge Rinder and is allocating nine of those slots a month for Demelza to use across ITV and Channel 4.
Sales Director, Matthew Edwards says they are always looking for more ways to support such a worthwhile cause.
“Demelza is an amazing charity that helps families cope with caring for a very sick child or one with complex needs and we support them by servicing their heating free of charge and displaying their logo on our vans.
“We wanted to give them an opportunity to tell more people about their work. Hopefully it will help them reach out to more families in need as well as encourage more people to donate to their fundraising.”
In addition to promoting the vital work of the Demelza, the advert prompts viewers to text to donate as the charity is reliant on community generosity to be able to provide care to families in need.
Demelza Chief Executive Ryan Campbell said: “This is the first time Demelza has advertised on television and we are enormously grateful to Swale Heating for giving us this exciting opportunity.
“It will bring our work to the attention of a wide audience and hopefully show them what a vital service we provide to families of children with life-limiting and life-threatening conditions.”
Caitlin, who attends Cornwallis Academy, Maidstone, was born with so many holes in her heart that doctors were amazed she survived birth. By the age of four, she had endured six major bouts of heart surgery and several other lesser heart operations.
The family’s introduction to Demelza came when Caitlin was a year old and being fed via a gastric tube. A visiting nurse suggested the family could borrow a feed machine from the hospice which would prevent Ingrid and husband Barry having to get up every three hours during the night to feed their daughter manually.
Ingrid said: “It was life changing for us. We were on our knees. As well as Caitlin, we had Sam, a lively toddler two years older than Caitlin, and we were both trying to hold down our jobs. Although we had heard of Demelza, we thought it was for end of life care. We never envisaged we would need their help.”
The family suffered a second devastating blow when, aged four, Caitlin had a stroke.
“She lost her speech and movement in her right leg. It was one of our worst days ever. She just looked at us with her big, sad eyes. I felt so helpless. I didn’t know what to do. But the doctors said: ‘Just keep talking to her’ – and eventually her speech returned.”
Today, Caitlin has reduced mobility in her right arm and leg but her condition is currently stable. She has to take the blood-thinning drug Warfarin daily and has an electric wheelchair to help her in school and a normal wheelchair to assist on family days out.
She remains determined to lead a normal life however and enjoys riding, swimming, drama, singing and spending time at one of the charity’s two children’s hospices - Demelza Kent – based in Bobbing, Sittingbourne. The other is in Eltham, South East London.
Caitlin features in the commercial produced by Red Goat, along with a number of other children and young people with life-limiting and life-threatening conditions.
Following the recording at the Sunlight Centre, Gillingham, she said: “It was brilliant to be asked to be the voice for Demelza, even though I was really nervous. I felt like I was speaking out on behalf of all the other children who use Demelza, which was a real privilege.”
The commercial can be seen in the Meridian and London region from February.