Stephen Ford and daughters Imogen, aged eight, and Eva, six, joined hospice nurses who looked after Amelia and staff from The Mill for the unveiling ceremony within the grounds of St Catherine’s Park in Lostock Hall.

When The Mill extension opens, there will be more tables available at peak times in a dual-use space which will also be able to be hired out for functions. A new shop selling pre-loved occasion-wear, as well a range of new gifts and cards, will also be launched.

In this way the project will boost the profitability and efficiency of The Mill social enterprise – which provides a sustainable source of income for the hospice charity – at the same time as providing more space for patients and families to spend time together within the welcoming and ‘normal’ environment.

Stephen, Amelia and their daughters made many special memories at The Mill during the time Amelia was staying on the hospice’s inpatient unit in 2015, and Stephen has remained a supporter of both organisations ever since – following his wife’s death from a rare form of lung cancer aged just 36 that summer.

Stephen, who lives near Chorley, said: “We were truly honoured to be asked to lay the foundation stone within The Mill extension.

“It is fantastic to see how it has gone from strength from strength over the years since it opened in 2014, and we were delighted to be invited to share in the launch of this exciting next chapter.

“Despite the devastation and shock at Amelia’s diagnosis, her mantra was always to carry on to create happy memories for our children – who at the time were only two and three.

“The support we received from St Catherine’s helped us to do that. The staff there became part of our team and the place was a huge part of our lives. Throughout this time The Mill provided a welcoming venue for precious time together including Mother’s Day, which we spent there having a meal.

“We could simply take a stroll across the park – Amelia in her wheelchair, the girls running around on the grass, and then enjoy a slice of cake or an ice cream together. It gave us back some normality, in what was a very abnormal situation.

“Although St Catherine’s is where Amelia’s life ended, it’s not a place we find difficult to come back to because of the memories we have of the time we spent together here.

“Myself and the girls hope the hospice and The Mill will continue to flourish for the benefit of other families who need this kind of support, and we are extremely touched to be asked to play a part in its ongoing story.”

Stephen Greenhalgh, Chief Executive of St Catherine’s Hospice, said: “Stephen, Amelia and their daughters’ experiences of The Mill capture perfectly what we set out to achieve with this ambitious project.

“The Mill is a successful café which provides an important source of sustainable income for the hospice, at the same time as attracting new supporters to the work of St Catherine’s and de-mystifying what hospice care is for those who might apprehensive or anxious.

“But it is also a place for our patients and their loved ones to experience the normality of going out and sharing a meal together and a place that families can then return to remember and reflect for many years to come. With the opening of our extension, The Mill will be able to do even more – raise more income for St Catherine’s, welcome more people in, and be there for many more families who need us, now and in the future.”

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