Teams of NHS staff from the paediatric oncology wards at Leeds Children’s Hospital are taking on a 900k-step walking challenge, to raise funds for Candlelighters, a children’s cancer charity supporting families across Yorkshire and at the hospital.

Staff decided to undertake the challenge as part of Candlelighters’ Pink It Up week from 28th June to 5th July – the flagship campaign for the charity which seeks to raise funds and awareness for children with cancer. Dubbed ‘Step It Up for Pink It Up’, the group will set out to walk the equivalent of the perimeter of Yorkshire – 450 miles, or around 900k steps – throughout the week whilst on their shifts.

A total of five teams of NHS staff, spanning medical staff, nursing staff, allied health professionals, social workers, and play workers, will take part in the challenge in order to raise funds for the charity which provides support to families and staff on the hospital wards, as well as out in communities all across the region. With kind donations from the public, Candlelighters funds extra NHS staff hours and roles at the hospital, as well as its own dedicated Family Support Workers who help families with a broad range of things – from someone to chat to, playing with the children, signposting to their services, and anything and everything in between – roles which are crucial, as many families of a child with cancer will have lengthy stays in hospital.

Julie White, Matron for Children’s Haematology and Oncology and Lead Nurse for Children’s Cancer at Leeds Children’s Hospital, said, ‘I’ve worked in the NHS for 31 years and with the children and families on the oncology wards for 21 years. I’ve seen first-hand the devastating impact childhood cancer has on any family and how incredibly hard it is for them with a child on the ward, sometimes for months on end, going through gruelling treatments that can have terrible physical and emotional effects. Candlelighters help us to provide that extra level of support which is vital when families are facing such a scary diagnosis for their child. Having Candlelighters there means we’re able to focus on providing the best care possible. We know that Candlelighters are making sure the family know what other help is available, feel supported emotionally, and generally have everything else they need. It is this support which helps to make the care for children with cancer at Leeds Children’s Hospital, outstanding.’

The hospital says that Candlelighters’ support also helps to relieve some of the strain felt by frontline NHS paediatric oncology staff, particularly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, by enhancing care for patients, offering wellbeing treatments such as massages for staff to combat stress, as well as refreshments for all on the wards.

Once families leave the hospital, Candlelighters ensures they are equally supported at home too, with access to a broad range of services such as talking therapies, peer support groups, trips and days out, and access to both their family support centre, The Square, in Leeds, and localised support workers across Yorkshire.

Julie adds‘This challenge will be a great way for the hospital teams to have some fun and give something back to Candlelighters; we’re going to make it into a competition too, with little prizes for things like the individual with the most steps, the best pink outfit while doing the challenge, the most creative way to do your steps, and best team selfie! After an incredibly tough year for everyone working at the hospital, this is an opportunity to boost morale whilst also raising funds for a charity that makes the wards a better place for the children, their families and our staff.’

Throughout Pink It Up week, Candlelighters will also be providing pink-themed activities to entertain children staying on the wards, including art and craft sessions, and a pink tea party – complete with pink fairground games and pink party bags filled with sweets and treats.

Emily Wragg, CEO at Candlelighters said, ‘We’ve been working alongside NHS staff on the oncology wards at Leeds Children’s Hospital since we were founded nearly 45 years ago. Together we care for over 150 children diagnosed with cancer and their families each year in Yorkshire and we’re so proud of the level of care that these children and families receive as a result of our close and strong relationship. We are humbled that the NHS teams within paediatric oncology are taking on this incredible challenge to raise money to support the children and families that we care for.’

If you’d like to support the teams at Leeds Children’s Hospital in their challenge, you can make a donation to their fundraising page right here! 

To find out more about the work Candlelighters does to support children with cancer in Yorkshire, visit their website and to find out how to get involved with Pink It Up, click here.

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