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Manchester Foundation
Trust Charity

Best friends launch "Hughie and Freddie's Play Appeal"

Hughie and Freddie's Play Appeal
Monday 07th August 2023
  • £300,000 fundraising appeal is for Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital
  • Roof top play area will benefit the 280,000-plus young patients the hospital sees every year
  • Best friends have launched the appeal after experiencing the benefits first hand

TWO best friends – one currently being treated for leukaemia – are launching a huge fundraising appeal to completely makeover a patient play area at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital.

Youngsters Hughie and Freddie are calling on supporters to help reach the ambitious £300,000 needed for the roof top play area at the hospital. The boys are particularly passionate about the project as Hughie is a current patient of the hospital, receiving treatment on the oncology unit for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

Hughie and Freddie’s Play Appeal has been launched by the friends and the hospital’s own Charity so the much-loved play area can be given a complete revamp and bring it back to life after 14 years of use.

The area is used by thousands of young patients – many of whom may be staying at the hospital for weeks, months or even years – to have some fresh air, time to play and enjoy a welcome break outside.

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Hughie, aged 13, said: “When I was first diagnosed in September 2020 I was in hospital for weeks. When I went up to the roof top play area it was the first bit of fresh air I’d had in about five or six weeks. I wasn’t well enough to leave the hospital, so it was such a nice feeling being outside again but knowing I was safe and still in the hospital.”

Best friend Freddie, aged 12, is a huge sports fan, so understands the importance of getting time to stretch your legs. He said: “I can’t imagine what it is like to not go outside for a long time. The roof top play area is great for children who want to get some space outside and do activities they can’t necessarily do on the ward.”

Hughie Higginson and Freddie Xavi are both avid supporters of Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital Charity. Their fundraising for the Charity started when Hughie was first diagnosed with leukaemia and Freddie wanted to do something to help. He started by running 2km every day in the 50 days leading up to Christmas Day 2020.

Since then, their story has attracted attention from local and national media and even bagged them a Pride of Britain Award and British Citizen Youth Award. They've been interviewed on This Morning, BBC Breakfast and Good Morning Britain and met some of their celebrity heroes including Paddy McGuinness, Carol Vorderman and Mo Farah.

Although Hughie is still under treatment, he is now well enough to join Freddie with his fundraising, so the boys do events together, including a new challenge they’ve set themselves to run 1km round each Premier League and English Football League Club.

To date, they’ve raised almost £300,000 for Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital which has supported a number of projects around the hospital. This includes slushies for children on the oncology ward, to help soothe mouth ulcers and other side effects of chemotherapy, music therapy and a refurbishment of the TeenZone. Now the boys are turning their attention to the roof top play area.

Georgia Sleigh, Relationship Officer at Manchester Foundation Trust Charity, has been supporting Hughie and Freddie with their fundraising. She said: “When we told Hughie and Freddie about the roof top play area they got it straight away. Hughie especially knows how important it is to stretch your legs and enjoy a change of scenery when you’re living full time on a ward receiving treatment. Freddie gets it too – but I think it resonated for both of them when they met current patient Penny on the roof. Seeing her face light up really hammered home just how vital it is to have this space.

“There is a reason it’s now in desperate need of a revamp – it’s just been so well-loved and used by our patients for over a decade.”

Penny, a six-year-old patient who met Hughie and Freddie on the roof top, is currently recovering from surgery at the children’s hospital after being diagnosed with a type of brain tumour known as pilocytic astrocytoma. Her mum Elizabeth said: “When Penny first went on the roof she hadn’t had fresh air in 10 weeks. She was just like ‘wow’. Before her brain tumour she was a big fan of swimming and dancing so being active and outdoors was a big part of her life. It’s so well loved and used so it is definitely in need of a revamp. It will be so amazing to see it transformed.”

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The £300,000 needed for the play area will enable the hospital to completely overhaul the area. From the moment patients step outside they’ll be greeted with a play area designed to be accessible to all children, including those who have a range of access needs. They’ll be able to move around, practice their physiotherapy exercises or just relax and enjoy being outside.

As well as spaces for play and fun gardening work, there will be quiet areas including Wi-Fi and plug-in points for older children to enjoy. The space will also have heated and sheltered areas, as well as lighting for evening use.

Susan Fairclough, Therapeutic and Specialised Play Service Manager, Youth Service Manager and Event Lead at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Seeing patients running around or brought up in their wheelchairs or in their beds has brought many families and staff so much pleasure in seeing their faces. It really is a healing environment.”

“The play area means children can safely have time outside. And it also makes the transition to going home less daunting – they’re not just going from the ward to outside, they’re able to acclimatise with some outdoor time in the play area.”

The appeal has only just begun so the Charity now needs the help of the public to get the funds raised. As each day passes, the rooftop play area is becoming even more worn and tired. But with the public’s support, things can change.

Click here to donate now. 

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