LauraLynn, Ireland’s Children’s Hospice, formally known as the Children’s Sunshine Home, history began as far back as 1925 when Dr Ella Webb, a pioneering Dublin paediatrician of her time, treated many cases of children with rickets. She, together with the support of a dedicated group including Ms. Letitia Overend, saw the need to provide medical care within a residential setting, where tenement children with rickets could be given an opportunity to recover fully, before returning to home.
Funding came from voluntary donations and this early ethos of providing care for disadvantaged children has continued to motivate those who work and continue to work and volunteer at LauraLynn.
The site itself was donated by the Overend Family of Leopardstown, owners of Airfield House which has recently been refurbished and is now opened to the public.
Dr Ella Webb Letia Overend
Our Early Years
As acute rickets became less common, the needs of children with primary tuberculosis and pre and post operative congenital heart diseases was met by the Home. As social conditions and state supports improved, many parents were able to provide adequate care for their very ill children in their own homes. By the early 70’s, the residential care service, Children’s Sunshine Home, responded to the need for long term care for children with profound intellectual disabilities and is funded by the HSE. It still continues to be one of the few residential care services of its kind in the country.
Our Recent Years
The Children’s Sunshine Home Hospice Project was launched in 2005 by our CEO, Philomena Dunne and merged with the LauraLynn Children’s Hospice Foundation (established by Jane & Brendan McKenna) in 2006. They sought to maximise their fundraising efforts and realise their shared vision of establishing Ireland’s first children’s hospice. This finally happened in September 2011 with the opening of LauraLynn House by the then President of Ireland, Mary McAleese. It was funded by voluntary contributions and in particular, the work of Brendan and Jane McKenna. This modern, award winning health care facility has 8 palliative care beds with 4 family accommodation units.
Brendan & Jane McKenna
The LauraLynn Children’s Hospice Foundation was set up in 2001 by Jane and Brendan McKenna after their daughters, Laura four and 15-year-old Lynn, died within two years of each other.
Having had personal experience of the lack of respite or specialist care for children with life-limiting conditions, Jane and Brendan established the LauraLynn Foundation and dreamed of building a hospice dedicated to their memory. They worked tirelessly raising funds and fulfilled their dream when they joined forces with The Children’s Sunshine Home Hospice Project and succeeded in building of a dedicated children’s palliative care unit on a site adjoining the Children’s Sunshine Home. It was opened in September 2011 by President Mary McAleese and since then has provided care and support to more than 355 families from the time of diagnosis, through crises and where required at end of life and into bereavement.
Jane and Brendan continued to work in a voluntary capacity with the hospice helping to promote and fundraise for operational costs until August 2016 when the retired from their public role in order to have time to pursue personal interests. However, they are still an important part of the ethos and story of the organisation that bears the names of their beautiful daughters.
The Next Phase of Our Journey
LauraLynn continues to provide long-term residential care for a small number of children and young people with profound intellectual and physical disabilities. In keeping with national policy we no longer accepting referrals or admissions for this service.
The next phase of our journey will reflect a changing emphasis in our service towards an expansion of Family Support, Symptom Management, End-of-Life Care, Bereavement Support and Direct Care for children and their families. Our aim is to build on the excellence of care we have at LauraLynn House and enable all families regardless of where they live, who need care to access it. Our LauraLynn@HOME programme, started in June 2014, is in two HSE regions in Ireland. It provides respite hospice care in the comfort of the family home and is delivered by experienced children’s nurses and health care assistants and supported by LauraLynn, Children’s Hospice.
As part of this strategy, LauraLynn recently established a Clinical Education & Training Department providing a range of accredited educational programmes and initiatives to healthcare professionals and others involved or interested in children’s palliative care. This development is key to ensuring the development of qualified and highly skilled staff in the area of children’s palliative and intellectual disabilities. It facilitates, pioneers and coordinates research and service evaluation to underpin the clinical training and education that we offer to all health professionals.
Sources of Further Information
- The Children’s Sunshine Home – A Success Story’ – Elspeth Watson, Brunswick Press
- Airfield House – A history of the family can be viewed on the newly refurbished home and gardens of the Overend Family at www.airfield.ie
- The Story of Laura and Lynn Mckenna – see Family Stories here