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Claire House founder Chris Cain discusses its creation 25 years on

1 month ago

Claire House founder Chris Cain discusses its creation 25 years on

Claire House founder Chris Cain on juggling motherhood and nursing with helping to open Claire House Children’s Hospice in Wirral

When the Cain family started fundraising for Claire House with a car boot sale and a hand-written, cardboard sign they raised £96.

In the years that followed, the Cains, along with other determined families, threw themselves into fundraising events, committee meetings at each other’s houses, and the task of finding a suitable location in Wirral. 

But when Claire House Children’s Hospice finally opened its doors in December 1998 – with their daughter Claire’s name above the door – they never could have imagined just how big the idea would become. 

Today, on International Women’s Day, Claire’s mum Chris Cain has shared why she never doubted they would achieve the vision, despite juggling motherhood and working as a nurse. 

And the mum-of-four explained what will be important in the future for Claire House – 25 years after it exceeded those early expectations. 

Chris, 69, from Wallasey, said:

“We never questioned if we would achieve the dream of opening the first children’s hospice in our area. We always knew we’d get there, it was just a matter of when.

“Our vision was to build a ‘home from home’ where families with seriously ill children could be together, but with the support of specially trained staff. That’s exactly what Claire House is today. 

“It’s a very special place which gives families a choice to be together, which is something we never had when Claire was ill in hospital.”

Chris and her husband Bobby’s daughter Claire suddenly became seriously ill while the couple were expecting their fourth child.

Claire was diagnosed as having a malignant tumour behind her nose and eye and the regular hospital visits meant the family couldn’t all stay together. 

Claire died in July 1989 aged nine. 

With a shared dream of helping families like theirs, Chris and Bobby, along with a small group of others, started fundraising in 1991. 

Retired nurse Chris said:

“We were aware throughout Claire’s illness, and during those last few days, how difficult it was for us as a family.

“I started a children’s cancer support group, Wirral CHICS, and knew there was a need for a children’s hospice in our area. 

“The fundraising hasn’t always been big like today. We started off small – with Bobby and our daughter Tracey doing a car boot sale in Hamilton Square with a cardboard sign saying, ‘All Proceeds to Claire House’. 

“And I remember taking Claire’s little brother Kevin to collect a hamper from Marks and Spencer. And the fundraising gradually grew.

“I knew we’d achieve the dream because, the minute we put the word out, everybody who knew Claire or knew of her wanted to help. 

“But I don’t think we realised how big Claire House would become, or how much fundraising would be needed for it to continue.”

The grandmother-of-nine said turning Claire House’s Liverpool site into a full hospice would reach more people who desperately need help.

She said:

“Children and families from Liverpool are currently getting support from Claire House, but there are so many more who need help. 

“It would be great to keep Claire House Wirral doing as great as it is, but to have the equivalent in Claire House Liverpool, because it’s another fantastic site and one that is much needed.”

Find more information on the Claire House website.

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