A HOSPICE that helps families to make 'precious memories' despite illness has launched a new fundraising initiative.

Helen & Douglas House in East Oxford is encouraging people to host meals at their homes, and invite diners to donate the money they would have otherwise spent eating out.

Supporters have been asked to stage a Dine at Mine event on Saturday, October 13, be it for breakfast, brunch, lunch, afternoon tea or dinner.

Leanne Godfrey, whose five-year-old daughter Lily-Mae Oldham is cared for by the hospice, has backed the new campaign.

The Witney resident said: "Helen & Douglas House is so important to us.

"It is an environment that is safe and the nurses take on the carer role, so we can just be parents.

"It also provides invaluable support to parents and siblings so they have someone to talk to when losing a loved one."

Last week Lord Ian Blair, chair of trustees at the charity, said a 'new era' had started at the hospice after a period of financial struggles, which resulted in the closure of adult services at Douglas House.

Ms Godfrey encouraged people to sign up to Dine at Mine, so families can continue to make 'precious memories' at Helen House.

She added: "You will be helping parents like me make the most amazing memories, which will last a lifetime."

Lily-Mae has had care at Helen House since 2017, for a life-shortening condition called Rett Syndrome.

She is fully dependent and cannot walk or talk, and has regular seizures.

Her mum was one of six whose children use Helen House or its outreach service, who the hospice treated to a pamper day.

The gathering on June 30 launched the Dine at Mine campaign with a meal, plus massages, facials and manicures, all donated by Oxfordshire businesses.

Ms Godfrey thanked the hospice for arranging the event, adding: "It was nice to have a few hours with the other mums having a chat about normal things we have to deal with.

"The pedicure, foot massage and facial were lovely.

"It was very kind of people to take time out of their lives to give us mums a treat."

Dine at Mine can range from a small gathering at home to a black tie dinner at a hired venue, and hosts can either prepare or buy the meal or ask guests to bring a dish.

Lauren Kemp, head of events and supporter partnerships at Helen & Douglas House, said: "It was wonderful to be able to hold our first Dine at Mine meal at Helen House and invite some of our mums along to launch this great campaign.

"As a charity we need to raise £3m every year, and we cannot do this without our supporters' help."

She thanked everyone who supported the mums' afternoon, including beauty therapists from Hawkwell House Hotel in Iffley, food and raffle donations from Jury's Inn, Waitrose in Headington and Botley and Tesco in Abingdon and Bicester, as well as not-for-profit organisation Aiden's Army for providing goodie bags.

The combination of food and company has proved a success for other charities, from Macmillan's Biggest Coffee Morning to Sobell House Hospice's Come4Tea, which launched last year.

To sign up to host a Dine at Mine event, visit helenanddouglas.org.uk/event/dine-at-mine.