Meet the face of this year's Woodford Green charity's Christmas campaign
PUBLISHED: 15:00 02 December 2019
Three-year-old Annabelle Thomas from Barkingside is the face of Woodford Green-based Haven House Children's Hospice this Christmas.
The hospice is aiming to highlight the vital work it does in allowing families to be together and at home over the festive period.
When Annabelle was just six months old, she stopped reaching and kicking her legs.
After multiple trips to the doctors, she became severely ill and was admitted to hospital.
On the day before Christmas Eve her parents Michelle and Chris were given the devastating news of Annabelle's diagnosis.
Her parents were told she had spinal muscular atrophy Type 1, a genetic condition that would leave her unable to talk, walk, eat or live.
Her parents Chris and Michelle credit the Woodford-Green based hospice for supporting them during the toughest of times and for transforming their daughter's future.
"We will never forget that Christmas," Michelle said.
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"All our hopes and dreams for Annabelle stopped that day. What was meant to be a magical time instead became the agonising possibility that this could be our first and last Christmas together.
"We were heartbroken and in deep despair. Haven House came into our life at exactly the right time and when we had no-where else to turn."
Three years on and Annabelle is spearheading the hospice's Christmas campaign, which urges people to donate to the charity, so more seriously ill children can benefit from the specialist services it provides.
Annabelle's condition causes progressive muscle weakness, loss of movement and difficulty swallowing.
Constant physiotherapy is crucial to help her improve movement and the hospice has been providing her with regular sessions.
A hospice nurse also supports the family at home and has helped Michelle and Chris feel safe that help is on hand when they need it.
"Annabelle would not have made the progress that she has without Haven House," Michelle added.
"The hospice has helped re-build our family and made us realise that our dreams for Annabelle have not stopped, they have just changed."
The charity provides care for more than 370 babies, children and young people who have life-limiting and life-threatening conditions across north and north east London, west Essex and east Hertfordshire.
To support Haven House this Christmas, visit havenhouse.org.uk/Sendawish or call 020 8498 5841.