Cleveland Centre shoppers urged to make a Christmas wish

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A Christmas Wish Tree has been put up in the Cleveland Centre to raise funds for Zoe's Place. Manager Graeme Skillen is pictured with Rachael Bareman from the hospice. 11/12/20 Pic Doug Moody Photography.

A Christmas Wish Tree installed in Cleveland Centre for the festive season will give Teessiders a chance to send messages to loved ones in heaven – while raising vital funds for struggling Middlesbrough baby hospice Zoe’s Place.

The festive feature allows shoppers the chance to write a Christmas wish onto a bauble that is hung on the 12ft tree in Middlesbrough’s largest shopping centre. 

In return for a donation of the shopper’s choosing, they also receive a Zoe’s Place pin-badge.

Rachael Bareham, community and events fundraiser for Zoe’s Place, said any money raised will go a little way towards filling the huge void in their funds.

The hospice needs £1.5m a year to operate fully but has struggled to raise even half of that amount in recent times, especially since the beginning of the Covid pandemic.

It means the Ormesby-based hospice is currently able to offer just three beds on a part-time basis to seriously ill children, with eight families currently on the waiting list for respite care.

“Our Christmas Wish Tree is something a bit different,” said Rachael. “It’s nice to have hopes and wishes at this time of year, whatever your age.

“It’s dead easy – just write a wish on a bauble for the tree – it could be wishing for a particular gift, for snow at Christmas, wishing a loved one well or sending a message to a much-missed loved one in heaven.

“Some of the messages already up are really emotional – many of them in memory of little ones who’ve passed away. 

“All we ask in return is that people make a donation which they drop into our “wishing well” – we appreciate times are hard so we’re grateful for whatever anyone can give and thank everyone for their generosity.”

Envelopes are also available for donors to write on their address enabling Zoe’s Place to claim Gift Aid on their donation.”

Explaining how important any donations would be, Rachael added: “It’s really tough right now. We are at the point where if we don’t bring in further income, we can’t open our doors. 

“We’’re already operating the hospice at a reduced capacity, which we don’t want to be, while we have eight families waiting to receive respite care. We’ve never been in this position before.

“Our families have really struggled during lockdown. We are lifeline for them so it is so tough on them when we can’t help them as we’ve always done.”

Cleveland Centre manager Graeme Skillen added: “These are incredibly challenging times for everyone but we were saddened to hear that Zoe’s Place was finding it so tough. 

“We’re delighted to give them this fundraising opportunity and hope Cleveland Centre shoppers will make a point of paying the Christmas Wish Tree a visit to make a donation and place a wish of their own.”

The Zoe’s Place Christmas Wish Tree is situated on Cleveland Centre’s Newton Mall, close to Costa Coffee.