Wendy and the Wishing Well

Wendy has been a volunteer at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) since the height of the Wishing Well appeal in 1988 – but the hospital has been a part of her life for as long as she can remember. For Volunteers Week (1-7 June), Wendy shares her GOSH story.

Wendy’s first visit to the hospital was in 1955, to an institution still largely dependent on Victorian infrastructure and patched up from bomb damage sustained in the Blitz. Her brother Graham was admitted for three months with a serious case of pleurisy and pneumonia.

“It was quite an intimidating sight, but an extraordinary place. I was 7 and my brother was 10. Of course, there were many appointments and visits. Parents had slots to visit their children in those days: they were hardly allowed to visit. Graham never wanted to talk about his experiences. I was always left in reception with the other siblings – you couldn’t go anywhere in the hospital as a sibling. His bed used to be out on a balcony of the Southwood building, for the fresh air. I’d wave to him, but that was it, I didn’t get to meet him. Three months was a long time. I kept all my Easter eggs – because he went in just before Easter – and I wouldn’t eat them until he came home.”

Three months later, Graham left hospital. Decades later, it would be as a parent that Wendy returned to GOSH.

“We had identical twins in 1976. One of them had an issue of one leg being slightly longer than the other. Her ballet teacher noticed it first. Our doctor told us that we weren’t breeding prize racehorses, but referred us to Great Ormond Street, where she had appointments a couple of times a year throughout her childhood.”

The Wishing Well

It was the launch of the hospital’s Wishing Well appeal that saw Wendy make the jump from GOSH parent to GOSH volunteer. “My mother saw the advert in The Daily Telegraph towards the end of 1987 (see below). I had no hesitation in putting my name forward. I started in the Appeals Office, at 49 Great Ormond Street, in January 1988. I’ve been a hospital volunteer ever since!”

Thanks to amazing fundraising efforts across the UK, the Wishing Well appeal raised an incredible £54 million – funding the redevelopment of the old and construction of much of the modern hospital. Wendy’s role was to deal with the masses of incoming calls from all the schools, organisations, businesses and members of the public that wanted to raise money, as well as sending out fundraising packs all over the UK.

“There were massive things being organised by all sorts of places. It was so enormous! I can remember one day looking up from the basement window to the pavement to see the boots of soldiers – they’d done a sponsored march from the Rhine in Germany to Great Ormond Street! There were such incredible things going on all the time.”

When the appeal reached its target in January 1989, a year ahead of schedule, Wendy and her family were invited to a Service of Thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey. Her daughter was chosen as a member of the Guard of Honour, a group of GOSH patients who welcomed special guests the Prince and Princess of Wales (who had launched the appeal in October 1987) to the ceremony.

No two days the same

After her involvement in the Wishing Well appeal, Wendy volunteered in the hospital’s reception before moving to a role on the wards. Wendy has now spent 23 years as a Play Volunteer at the hospital, working with families and children on Lion, Elephant and Giraffe wards. From helping with musical play to taking a parent’s guide dog for a walk, there are no two shifts the same. A lot has changed at GOSH, but the variety involved in volunteering remains the same. “I feel like they’ve demolished and rebuilt the whole place in the time I’ve been here, it’s changed so much! But you do all manner of different things as a volunteer. It’s always been the case that you never quite know what you’re going to do! I’ve wrapped presents for Christmas, helped at parties, you never know!”

Would you be interested in volunteering some of your time to support the vital work at Great Ormond Street Hospital? There are roles available with both the hospital and the charity which contribute hugely to supporting families from across the UK.