Shining Stars campaign raises £6,000 for Cambridge-based children’s bereavement support service
Supporters and funders of a Cambridge-based children’s bereavement support service gathered to celebrate raising almost £6,000 in a fundraising campaign run in partnership with the Cambridge Independent.
The Shining Stars Campaign in aid of the East of England family charity Ormiston Families shared the moving stories of children supported by its Stars Children’s Bereavement Support Service after the loss of a family member.
Stars offer specialist bereavement support and counselling to children in Cambridgeshire who may be experiencing difficulties following the loss of someone close to them, mixing creative play with talking therapy to help them make sense of their loss.
After donations from local individuals and businesses, the summer-long fundraising campaign raised almost £6,000 for the Stars service.
Those involved in the campaign’s success gathered at Westminster College on October 18 to hear from Ann-Marie McKiernan, the service’s manager, and Isla, a 16-year-old student from Cambridge who was supported by the service after her mother died of cancer in July 2021.
Isla said: “The first year after my mum died was difficult, but it was really after the anniversary of her death that I began to realise these things would keep coming around without her here.
“The first anniversary sent me into a depressive episode. My confidence sank and my education suffered. I was drowning in emotions.
“I could see my dad was struggling with his own emotions. When I first started working with Stars, it gave me someone to talk to without leaning on him.”
Isla, an avid equestrian, explained how the Stars team helped her to manage her anxiety during shows and in day-to-day life.
“On show days, I couldn’t control my breathing, and my horse picked up on my anxiety,” she said. “Ann-Marie taught me how to control my breathing to calm my nerves, and we worked on understanding what my triggers were so that I could recognise them before they began to control me.
“When Ann-Marie showed me why my feelings were completely normal for someone grieving, I started to understand myself much more.
“I became the bubbly and confident person I had always been again. Although I still have wobbles, Stars taught me that it’s OK and that my feelings don’t need to consume me.”
Isla completed her nine sessions with the Stars team and is now studying biology, chemistry and maths at Hills Road Sixth Form College, with ambitions to study at university.
Ann-Marie said: “Isla is incredibly brave to share her story so openly. She is such a bright young lady and hearing the impact of our work from her is the greatest advert for why we do what we do. Recent funding has allowed us to increase our team by 50 per cent, helping us to clear the backlog in referrals caused by the pandemic.
“The additional funding raised by the Shining Stars campaign will allow us to pay for new resources for creative play and therapy and will help our counsellors refresh their training and continue to travel the county supporting children who need us most.
“On behalf of the entire Stars team, I would like to thank those who so generously donated to the Shining Stars campaign for their invaluable support.”
Editor Paul Brackley said: “We were delighted to support this campaign and I would like to echo those thanks to all of our readers who supported it.”
Sam Weller, from Cambridge Community Foundation, which recently bestowed the Stars service grants of £3,000 from the CCF Marshall Community First Fund and £2,000 from the CCF Birketts Endowed Cambridgeshire Fund, said: “Cambridgeshire Community Foundation is pleased to have been able to support the work of Stars over the last 12 years, through grants from a number of our funds.”