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Support our £10,000 Shining Stars appeal and help children overcome the loss of a loved one

Cambridge’s Stars Children’s Bereavement Support Service has been helping families overcome the trauma and grief of losing a parent for nearly two decades. As the Cambridge Independent and the much-loved service launch a new £10,000 fundraising campaign, we tell the story of how two girls were helped to flourish by its amazing practitioners. You can support our appeal at https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/shiningstarsappeal2023

Support our new Shining Stars appeal
Support our new Shining Stars appeal

The pain of losing a parent at any age can feel devastating.

But when aged seven or four, like Cambridge youngsters Ella and Jess Chaplin were when their father Miles died in 2007, a family can feel broken, lost and like there is nobody to turn to.

That is where Ormiston Families’ Stars Children’s Bereavement Support Service comes in.

The service has been working for almost 20 years to help children in Cambridgeshire aged four to 19 navigate the most difficult time of their lives.

Currently based in an unassuming white bungalow on Newmarket Road, opposite Cambridge City Airport, the service’s approach is based on creative arts and craft therapy.

In Ella and Jess’ case – now 22 and 18 respectively - within a month of their father’s death they began seeing a Stars practitioner to allow them to express and come to terms with their grief.

Miles Chaplin with his daughters Jess, middle, and Ella, right
Miles Chaplin with his daughters Jess, middle, and Ella, right

Ella said the Stars team’s support had changed her life.

She said: “If our loss hadn’t been worked through early on, I wouldn’t be as open with my feelings as I am now.

“The counselling has never fully healed the pain of our loss but working with Stars has enabled me to express my feelings and emotions in a healthy way.

“I felt safe with the Stars team, and I talked openly about our loss, sadness and memories of Dad.

“Through activities like arts and crafts, we discussed sensitive issues that we may not have done in a direct conversation.

“If I could say one thing to my younger self, or anyone going through the same thing we did, it’s to be receptive of help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you feel you need it.”

For their mother, Melanie Chaplin, 54, the service provided vital support while she was going through her own trauma and grief.

She said: “It was hugely reassuring knowing I had a gentle professional helping me with the girls’ loss.

“When I was struggling to manage my grief of Miles’ death and the bureaucracy that came with it, it felt like I had one less thing to worry about.

“Seeing the Stars team was an opportunity for the girls to speak to someone outside the family who wasn’t affected by their Dad’s death. They could see how bereft I was, and I think they were conscious they might upset me if they spoke to me about Miles.

“They formed such a strong relationship with their practitioner, and the team’s use of arts and crafts helped them to express their feelings safely and subtly.”

Stars’ counsellors listen to the emotional needs of grieving children and encourage them to express painful feelings through creative play and work. Counsellors work one-to-one with children, normally for six sessions or longer.

Ella Chaplin, left, and sister Jess now
Ella Chaplin, left, and sister Jess now

Ella and Jess have both gone on to university and spent time travelling the world going to concerts, following in the footsteps of their music-loving father.

Melanie partly credits the work of the Stars team for the way her daughters have flourished.

She said: “We are all indebted to Stars for navigating us through the hardest time of our lives.

“The girls are now happy, confident and resilient adults. We all have our sad times, but counselling helped enormously and gave us the tools to move on as well as we could.”

Ann-Marie McKiernan, who manages the Stars service, said: “Seeing young people like Ella and Jess flourish into adult life and to hear them speak about the service so powerfully shows the impact of our work.

“Any money we can raise will go towards helping more children navigate a devastating time in their lives.

“We can’t thank the Cambridge Independent enough for their support and we’re looking forward to seeing everyone’s fundraising ideas over the coming weeks.”

Editor Paul Brackley said: “The Stars team are providing an extraordinary and really important service. When we heard about their work, we were very keen to support them.

“Anyone who is able to support the appeal is making a huge difference. And we will be pleased to promote your fundraising activities to help.

“Individuals, families, friends, organisations and businesses can all get involved. Together, we can help provide crucial support to help children who have lost a loved one.”

Our Shining Stars Appeal

The Cambridge Independent needs your help to raise £10,000 to support Stars in carrying out its vital work.

At Ormiston Families Stars are Paula Thexton, Mark Proctor, Charlotte Burnett and Ann-Marie McKiernan. Picture: Keith Heppell
At Ormiston Families Stars are Paula Thexton, Mark Proctor, Charlotte Burnett and Ann-Marie McKiernan. Picture: Keith Heppell

During the Shining Stars campaign, we will be sharing stories of those who have been affected by loss or supported in their grief by Stars, highlighting the incredible work practitioners deliver every day.

You can follow the campaign in the Cambridge Independent, and through Ormiston Families’ social media channels.

To help us support a child during their most critical time of need, donate to our Shining Stars campaign today on our JustGiving page: https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/shiningstarsappeal2023

If you have been affected by the loss of a loved one or have been supported by our Stars service in the past, and would like to share your story, please get in touch with Ormiston Families by emailing communications@ormistonfamilies.org.uk

And to tell the Cambridge Independent about your fundraising, please email paul.brackley@iliffemedia.co.uk.

Sponsor a Star - like the Cambridge Independent - and provide vital support

Businesses can join the Cambridge Independent’s fundraising campaign with Ormiston Families’ Stars Children’s Bereavement service.

Ormiston Familes Stars in Newmarket Road. Picture: Keith Heppell
Ormiston Familes Stars in Newmarket Road. Picture: Keith Heppell

As part of our Shining Stars campaign, raising money to help deliver vital counselling to bereaved children in Cambridgeshire, we are inviting you to Sponsor a Star.

For £750, your organisation could fund two counselling sessions with Stars practitioners to support them in their most urgent time of need, giving them the time and space to express challenging emotions around the loss of a loved one.

We’re delighted to confirm that the Cambridge Independent, and its publisher Iliffe Media, is sponsoring the first star to get the ball rolling.

Editor Paul Brackley said: “We’re very pleased to sponsor a star and look forward to telling the stories of others who follow suit. You really will be making a big difference.”

Vicky Matthews, senior corporate partnerships manager at Ormiston Families, said: “By Sponsoring a Star, businesses are contributing to long-lasting positive impacts for children experiencing the hardest time of their lives.

“The money raised by every sponsorship pushes us ever closer to our £10,000 fundraising target, money which will be spent on allowing Stars to deliver and grow their essential services.”

Businesses that offer support will be featured in the Cambridge Independent and online and will be presented with a keepsake Shining Stars appeal trophy.

To join the Cambridge Independent in sponsoring a star today, contact Vicky on 07773 595553 or at Vicky.matthews.ormistonfamilies.org.uk.

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