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Support grows as Cwtsh Clos gets help with gardens

Julie in garden

Julie Montanari knows better than most how important it is for families to have a refuge to rest and gather their thoughts when they have a baby fighting for their life in hospital.

The Clydach mother spent years in and out of hospitals, far from home, after her son, Leon, was born with a heart condition that meant he needed a transplant before his first birthday.

Sadly, Leon passed away in 2009, aged 13, and The Leon Heart Fund was set up to help families with children in hospital, as a fitting memorial to his memory.

Julie has now agreed to sponsor the Swansea Bay Health Charity’s Cwtsh Clos campaign, which aims to raise £160,000 to refurbish a row of five houses in Singleton Hospital’s grounds that are made available to families of babies in its neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

She said: “I’ve always wanted to help Singleton Hospital because that’s where Leon was born. He spent a lot of his time here, so I know how important it is for people to have a space like this and somewhere to stay.

“We started the charity when Leon was alive. We noticed, in the hospitals, that a lot of the parents weren’t visiting. A lot of the time they were single parents, or didn’t have the money to travel, and they had siblings so they couldn’t make the journey because they had to look after them.

“It always bothered Leon and he wanted to make a difference to those people.”

Julie is supporting the Cwtsh Clos campaign as when Leon was in various hospitals she often had to sleep on floors to be near him.

She said: “The Cwtsh Clos homes are gold. They are desperately needed and it’s important that they are maintained.

“Some families can’t afford accommodation. You would only get three nights in a hotel on an average weekly wage. Some people don’t drive. You need to be on the doorstep of where your baby is. When they are so small, and so ill, sometimes you get called to be with them.

“I’ve supported parents, and sent them grants, because they had to sleep in their cars in the car parks in the hospitals.

“They were in the car and their baby was on a life-support machine – there was no room for them.

“I slept on the floor for two years in hospitals.

“I wouldn’t want anyone to go through that pain. It’s heart-breaking. You don’t know what to do. You just want to give your life for them. It’s awful. It’s out of your hands. You just have to pray.”

To date Julie has donated £5,000, raised by the Leon Heart Fund, towards the appeal with the promise of more to follow.

The money will go towards giving the gardens at Cwtsh Clos a makeover in order to create a calm, green space for families to relax in when time allows.

She said: “At the moment the gardens are in desperate need of attention.

“We’re going to put some nice benches out, some colourful ones. We’re going to put in some planters with sensory plants – some nice smells. And a little bit of fencing for privacy. Maybe a small little communal area for the families. If they want to sit together they can, or they can sit alone in their own little bit of garden.

“They are going through such a bad time. They need that bit of space. They need to have time alone to be able to think about things. And they need to be in a nicer environment because sometimes sitting on the ward, watching your baby fight for life, when you come away from that it’s nice to feel the fresh air around you. It’s really hard. You need things right around you at times like that.

“We raised £5,000 in November so that should only just cover the cost of the seating areas. I’ve got another event in June, where I’m hoping to get another couple of thousand, which will go towards the plants and communal area.”

Mal Pope outside the homes Julie is also encouraging members of the public to support the Cwtsh Clos campaign and donate.

She said: “Every family knows somebody that has spent time in places like NICU. They will understand how important it is, when they come off the ward, when they are there for days on end, to have some time out and a proper rest. It’s very important these homes are looked after.”

Cathy Stevens, SBUHB community support charity officer, said: “We cannot thank Julie and The Leon Heart Fund enough for the support they have shown our Cwtsh Clos campaign.

“The fundraising night they held in November was great fun and well attended including our charity team and NICU staff.

“Money raised from this event will help us transform the garden space at the rear of the accommodation where we hope to create a calming atmosphere where families can spend time together in a safe environment.”

If you would like to give an online donation to Cwtsh Clos, you can do that by clicking here.

To make a donation using your phone, please text 'Donate Swanseabayhealth homes' to 88802.

If you would like to fundraise for us yourself, or hold a fundraising event, please visit our JustGiving page for Cwtsh Clos here, where you will find more information.

You can also visit our Cwtsh Clos webpage for more information about the NICU centre and the fundraising appeal.

Thank you for your support!

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Swansea Bay Health Charity

Are you interested in raising money to support NHS services in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot? Did you know that Swansea Bay University Health Board has its own fundraising charity?

Swansea Bay Health Charity supports patients, staff and services within Swansea Bay University Health Board. Visit its webpage here to find out more.

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