A LOT has happened in the 22 years since Robin Wood became chairman of the board of trustees of Francis House Children’s Hospice in Didsbury, Greater Manchester.
As Robin, 84, of Ilkley, retires from the chairmanship of the charity and cause that he has dedicated his life to, he recalls the moment he met a formidable force in the children’s hospice movement.
Back in 1987, there were only three children’s hospices in the UK. Robin was the Administrator at one of them, Martin House in Wetherby, Yorkshire.
Three years later, Father Thomas Mulheran and Sister Aloysius visited Martin House as they wanted to provide respite care for sick children and their families in the north west.
“My office was near the front of Martin House as it was at the time, and I heard this rather stentorian voice come through the door and say ‘this is what we want!”
That was the beginning of Robin’s long-standing relationship with Francis House and its founder Sister Aloysius. Her drive and determination saw the opening of the children’s hospice only eighteen months later in November, 1991.
Robin chaired his first meeting on February 22, 1992, welcoming a new member to the Board of Trustees, Chris Roberts.
By coincidence in his final act as chairman on Thursday, Robin handed the chair to Chris, through unanimous vote of the Trustees.
Born Sept, 1929, a former Chief Executive of the Wool, Jute and Flax training board and Chairman of Leeds West district health authority, Robin was awarded the CBE in January, 1985 for services to the NHS.
In 1996 Francis House cared for one child over the age of 16, now that number has increased to over 90. Today the hospice supports over 250 sick children and young people a year.
“We all started off supporting children and their families, because that is what it is all about,” Robin said. “Because of all sorts of changes, partly through hospice work like ours, and substantially the result of medical interventions, some of the children born with life-limiting conditions are increasingly living longer.
“Therefore we’ve had to consider closely the age range of the children in our care.
“When we first started boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy were living between 13 and 15 years of age, now they’re living longer some into their 20s.”
Revd David Ireland, Chief Executive of Francis House said: “Robin has been an amazing chairman and since the Trust began to meet as an Independent trust he’s the only chair we’ve had. But his knowledge from previous roles has been invaluable in making Francis House what it is today.”
In May this year Francis House doubled its size with the opening of an extension of a further seven bedrooms for teenagers and young adults.