This month Denmans Garden partners with The Sussex Snowdrop Trust in marking their 30thanniversary with a celebration of the snowdrop on Saturday 18th February. Visitors can register to this free event and, in exchange for a donation to the charity, they can tour Denmans Garden and spot the specially planted snowdrops as well as visiting an exhibition in Midpines Café of the entries to a creative photography competition featuring snowdrops, the winners of which will be announced on the day.
We speak to Diana Levantine, one of the co-founders of the charity and its current Chair and non-paid CEO to hear a bit more about the charity’s work and plans for the future.
The original concept of the charity came through Sister Beth Connolly and Dr Anne Wallace who had been caring for a terminally ill child on the ward and felt that their care would be better at home in a quieter environment where the child could see their family and be surrounded by their favourite things.
The inspiration for the charity’s name came from looking through flower books to find a symbol that resonated with the charity – the snowdrop was chosen as it represents ‘hope’ and consolation in the language of flowers. This delicate flower endures the bitter conditions of winter through the cold and snow. It struggles to survive but there is such hope and joy when the flower emerges.
The charity started with funding for just one nurse, then two and today the Care at Home team includes eight nurses, two counsellors and two Health Care Assistants. The office was in my home before we moved to premises in West Stoke and we are now based in Walberton. We looked after 28 children at the start and the number now fluctuates between 60 and 75 children.
The charity’s objectives have remained consistent throughout this time and we continue to seek funding for the Care at Home Team whose nurses provide vital nursing care at home for local children who have a life threatening or terminal illness. These families have access to counselling support and financial assistance in exceptional circumstances.
My day to day role includes catching up with office staff, answering emails, and hand writing letters of thanks to individual donators. I prepare and chair Trustee meetings in person or via zoom. I do talks at schools or community groups or attend networking meetings.
Each day is varied and the needs of the Care at Home Team and the Snowdrop families always come first so that can change my day completely.
I am so proud that the Snowdrop Trust is a much-loved local children’s charity and is well regarded in the county. I am pleased that the charity has been able to continue for 30 years thanks to the generosity of people in the community despite some very challenging times.
We have been able to raise £6 million over the years. The charity has worked in collaboration with the NHS. The nurses are at the heart of all we do and we have been so fortunate to have had the most inspirational and dedicated team who have supported these families through the most anxious times of their lives.
My hope is that the community continue to understand and care about these families who face the difficult diagnosis that their child is very sick and that they realise their contribution funds this amazing Care at Home Team that make such a difference to the Snowdrop families whose lives change beyond recognition.
My hope is that people recognise the importance of passing on a gift in their Will as this legacy can go on to help others in need. The next generation of supporters are vital to the longevity of the Trust not only in giving but also in volunteering, so I also hope that more people find joy in volunteering and play a part in this special charity which has touched many lives in the county.
We run a wealth of events throughout the year including our annual walk at Arundel Castle Estate Park on Sunday 14th May and an outdoor cinema night on 2nd September at Madehurst Cricket Ground.
Other ways to support the charity include devising your own fundraiser or challenge that includes the number 30 such as– 30 miles walk, bake 30 cakes, include 30 friends for a party to mark our 30 years this year.
Alternatively, you might choose the Snowdrop Trust as a community group or business charity for the year and invite us to do a talk. Help us by following our social media platforms and sharing our news and come along to the monthly coffee morning at our offices in Walberton on the first Thursday of the month. We are also always on the lookout for those who might consider giving time as a volunteer.
We have built our relationship with Denmans Garden over recent years. I had met John Brookes many years ago and we reached out to Gwendolyn van Paasschen during the lockdown when she kindly did a zoom talk about the design of the garden and the sight of a snowdrop. This year it felt very appropriate as the charity marks 30 years of care for children with a life threatening or terminal illness to highlight the symbol of the snowdrop through Denmans Garden especially as they have a newly opened woodland walk with freshly planted snowdrops!
I love the whole ambience of Denmans as it feels so tranquil. I particularly like the planting near the cottage and the gravel garden as I love the minimalist Japanese influences there. It is a joy to sit and reflect on the many bold oxford blue benches around the garden. There is so much variety of planting to see and appreciate at any time of the year.
For more information about the Snowdrop Trust, their work and forthcoming events or to make a donation please go to
More information about the Snowdrop Trust’s events with Denmans Garden – both the snowdrop photography exhibition and a special ticketed talk about the ‘winter garden’ with Gwendolyn van Paasschen on Monday 20th February can be found here.