NHS charity’s Elf Service Week will keep you on your toes this Christmas

Rotherham Hospital and Community Charity is encouraging fundraisers to unleash their inner elf this Christmas to boost the Tiny Toes appeal.

Gemma, Alana, Aariya and baby Acacia

The NHS charity’s fun and festive National Elf Service campaign will return from 11 to 17 December 2023, with an official Christmas Jumper Day on 14 December. 

The charity is encouraging elves young and old to swap their school uniforms, work suits or stay-at-home joggers for their glitziest jumpers, reindeer antlers, funky socks or seasonal fancy dress to raise money at work, school or at home – anything goes!

Fundraising during National Elf Service Week will help to boost the charity’s Tiny Toes appeal, which aims to raise £150,000 to fund the redevelopment of the hospital’s neonatal unit. 

Alison Cowie, Head of Nursing for Children’s Services at The Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Christmas is usually the most wonderful time of year. A time to spend celebrating with family and friends, decorating a tree, giving and receiving gifts and watching festive movies on the sofa. 

“However, for some families their baby’s first Christmas may be spent in hospital because they are unwell or premature. We make this time as special as we can, but it can still be a tough time for parents as they are anxious and concerned for their baby. 

“Every penny raised during Elf Service Week will help us to provide the best equipment and facilities we can for the families we care for, creating a home from home when they need it the most.”

As the existing neonatal unit facilities are constantly used by parents, they are now worn and outdated. The unit was designed in the late 1970s and built 40 years ago.

The Trust will completely refurbish the unit to future-proof it for generations to come, with the charity fundraising for the added extras. The heating, lighting and accessibility need updating and the old-fashioned ‘viewing corridor’ removed to create additional space. 

The Tiny Toes appeal will fund a complete overhaul of the existing family rooms, including repainting and soft furnishings, new furniture, modern showers and kitchen facilities. 

It will fund recliner chairs so parents can sleep beside their baby’s cot, a ‘wobble room’ for parents and staff who need time away from the ward, resources for siblings and keepsakes for parents.

Baby Acacia Blackwell’s care on the neonatal unit has inspired her family to get involved in National Elf Service Week. Acacia was born at 27 weeks and five days old on 24 August, weighing just 1lb 5oz. She required a platelet transfusion at three days old, blood transfusions when she was 10 days and 28 days old, plus support with her breathing. 

Her mum Gemma, dad Tom and sisters Alana, five, and Aariya, eight, have are already sporting the festive attire!

Gemma, 29, from Aston, said: “Even though I’d given birth to two babies before, it was incredibly daunting having Acacia so early. I had pre-eclampsia too, so I was poorly as well as Acacia. Nothing can prepare you for seeing your tiny baby in an incubator, it’s heart-breaking. 

“One we got over the shock and the realisation that we’d be spending weeks, maybe months with Acacia on the neonatal unit, it became a home from home. Staff on the ward have been incredible and nothing is ever too much trouble. I can call in the middle of the night or every hour and they’re so supportive. 

“I’d urge people to please support the Tiny Toes appeal in any way you can and help the charity to raise as much as possible. Every penny will help families like us to and to raise awareness about premature babies and the care they need.”

Rachael Dawes, Head of Fundraising, added: “Our Tiny Toes appeal is really heartfelt for us because we know that every penny raised will make a massive difference to the most vulnerable patients we care for and their parents. 

“Our National Elf Service Week is a really important milestone in our fundraising for the appeal and we hope to inspire everyone in Rotherham to embrace their inner elf and to take part at school, work or at home. 

“Whether you wear your super sweaters, take part in a sponsored challenge or host a bake sale every penny will make a difference. 

“We hope to raise £10,000 this year!”

It costs just £1 to take part in our Christmas Jumper Day (why not fine those who don’t dress up at work?) 

Donations can be made via Just Giving.

For more information about National Elf Service Week or Christmas Jumper Day, please get in touch with the charity team by phone on 01709 426821 or email trft.rhcc@nhs.net.

Don’t forget to send us your photos and to copy us into your social media messages using #ElfServiceWeek