St Helens travel agency backing Pyjama Fairies charity welcomes special visitor

A brave girl, who had major heart surgery earlier this year, visited staff at a St Helens travel agency raising money for a charity which hand makes bespoke hospital theatre gowns and pyjamas for children.

Seven-year-old Isla Hines called in to see the team at Hays Travel in St Helens who have chosen Pyjama Fairies as their charity of the year after its volunteers made Isla a special theatre gown for her operation at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in April.

Isla, of Knotty Ash, Liverpool, is the niece of Hays Travel St Helens branch manager Gemma Bate’s best friend, Laura.

When Gemma heard from Laura how the colourful, bespoke theatre gown had made a difference to Isla’s stay in hospital, she immediately put it forward as her store’s charity for 2019.

Gemma, 35, who is from St Helens and has been manager of the Church Street branch since it opened last year, said the whole team was delighted to be able to raise money for such a worthwhile and unique charity.

“Isla’s aunt mentioned Pyjama Fairies to me as she knew we were looking for a charity and although I had not heard about them before, we thought it was a really good cause because it does such a special thing for the young patients it helps.”

The Hays Travel St Helens team are now well on the way to raising their target, thanks to a recent fund-raising day in the St Helens store, where staff dressed in their own pyjamas to raise more than £200. More fundraising events are now in the pipeline.

“I know Isla and I have seen the impact of her going in and out of hospital, so what Pyjama Fairies does is amazing, and we just want to raise as much money as we can for them,” Gemma added.

Working with their UK-wide network of 400+ volunteers – known as the ‘Sewing Fairies’ – Pyjama Fairies provides individually-made pyjamas and gowns for children under the age of 16 to take with them when they need to go into hospital.

They also donate 300 garments to children’s hospitals around the country each month. Each garment is fun and colourful, designed to minimise any discomfort from a child’s time in hospital and includes gowns for wearing during surgery as well as personal pyjamas to wear on the ward.

And little Isla, who inspired Hays Travel St Helens to raise funds for the charity, is just one of more than 10,000 children who benefit from the work of Pyjama Fairies every year.

Born with a condition called TGA, which caused her heart to be twisted and the wrong way around, Isla had her first open heart surgery at just two weeks old. The family knew she would need further major surgery as she got older to correct her heart but when Isla went in for exploratory tests in January in preparation for the surgery, she became distressed when asked to put on a hospital gown.

Looking for a solution for when Isla returned to have her actual surgery, which included having a pacemaker fitted, play specialists at Alder Hey suggested Pyjama Fairies to the family.

Mum Jo, 41, said having her own theatre gown helped prepare Isla for the 14-hour operation and was delighted to hear about Hays Travel St Helens fundraising for Pyjama Fairies which had helped her family so much.

Jo said: “Having the gown was one less thing for us to worry about as parents during a very stressful time. It was a familiar item that Isla could take with her into an unfamiliar environment. Anything that would make her that little bit happier and more relaxed was also going to help us.

“We are delighted that Gemma and her colleagues are supporting this brilliant charity which has helped Isla so much.”

Isla’s dad, Peter Hines, a store manager for home furnishing company Dunelm, said such a simple idea as Pyjama Fairies had made a huge difference and he thanked Hays Travel in St Helens for supporting the charity.

“Isla had no idea of the severity of her operation,” explained Peter, “and the Pyjama Fairies gown helped her to get used to the idea of going back into hospital, as she could try it on in advance and make it her own.

“It also gave us back a little bit of control as you do feel quite helpless but this way, we could do something to help her, to give her some comfort as the last thing you want to see is your little girl getting really upset. When we put her new gown on, all her fears disappeared, and Isla couldn’t have done better getting ready for major surgery.

“It’s terrific to hear about Gemma and her team’s support of Pyjama Fairies because the charity deserves all the financial support it can get.”

Every year, Hays Travel North West, which is the UK’s fastest growing independent travel agency, asks each of its stores to generate at least £500 for a chosen charity.

Hays Travel North West Managing Director Don Bircham also congratulated the St Helens team on their fund-raising efforts.

He said: “All our branches totally embrace the annual Hays Travel fundraising challenge and it is wonderful to hear that St Helens has chosen such an innovative charity as Pyjama Fairies. They are on track to reach their £500 target, which will help this wonderful charity support even young patients and their parents and make their time in hospital just that little bit easier.”

Pyjama Fairies Trustee Kayleigh Whitton, whose own experience of her daughter’s time in hospital as a premature baby led her to the work of the charity, said the money raised by the team at Hays Travel St Helens would enable another 100 garments to be handmade for children who needed them the most.

She said: “Demand is growing for what we do as there are unfortunately more and more children who need what we make, not just for surgery but for the time they spend on the wards.

“All our gowns and pyjamas are made by volunteers and while our premise is surprisingly simple, the positive impact of our garments and the difference it can make to both the children and their parents, makes it all worthwhile. I would like to say a massive thank you to Hays Travel St Helens as we simply couldn’t do what we do if people like Gemma and her team didn’t help.”

To find out more about the work of the Pyjama Fairies go to www.pyjamafairies.org

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