WORK has finally got under way on the multimillion-pound Grace House Hospice.
Builders arrived on site yesterday as construction began at the Southwick site.
Today, charity bosses released artist’s impressions of how the finished building, due to be completed next year, will look.
Fund-raising for the hospice is continuing with organisers still desperately in need of money to ensure the facility can offer around-the-clock help to families.
People across Wearside are being urged to donate, as well as come up with fund-raising ideas, to help maintain the flow of money into the centre.
Staffed by a team of dedicated professionals, the hospice will provide respite and terminal care for families.
And developers expect the vital facility to be up and running by next summer.
Kathy Secker, founder of the Grace House Appeal, which was set up to build, equip and run the hospice, said: “It’s absolutely marvellous that work is under way.
“It was a wonderful moment to see everything happening.
“We have already done the ‘soft works’, the roads are in place, now we can start with the building work itself.”
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The North East has the lowest number of hospice beds for children in the country and Grace House hopes to become a “home from home” for thousands of families.
“This is a time for celebration,” said Kathy. “This will be the first stand-alone, independent children’s hospice in the North East and it is coming to Sunderland.
“It is something the city should be very proud of.”
The purpose-built hospice will be self-contained with “bright, homely rooms” for children and accommodation for whole families.
It will provide a much-needed addition to existing services, giving parents a break, a chance to share their time with other children in the family and discuss their concerns.
The hospice will include children’s en-suite bedrooms, a family living room, consultation and physiotherapy room, assisted bathroom, nurse station, sensory room, library and music room.
It will also feature a bereavement suite, family bedrooms and living room, dining room with a cyber cafe and “teen den”.
There will also be a computer and technology area and a quiet room, as well as offices, nursing and fund-raising staff facilities.
“We would like to thank all of the Echo readers who are supporting us,” said Kathy. “They have made such a difference.”
Housing firm gentoo has agreed to design and build the hospice at cost price in its regeneration area.
Allan Thompson, managing director of Gentoo Construction, said: “Starting on site is a real milestone for the project as it represents a big step towards Grace House’s goal of providing much needed specialist care for children and families in the region.
“It is such a worthy cause and we recognise the value and significant difference they will make to children and families around the North East.”
For more information about the Grace House Appeal, phone 516 6302, or visit www.gracehouse.co.uk