The gift of precious memories: our time at Center Parcs

22 June 2023

The gift of precious memories: our time at Center Parcs

This Children's Hospice Week, we want to share Thea's story as told by her mum Rachel. Please note: sadly, Thea died after this was written. Her family wanted us to share this story to honour Thea, have her memory live on, and inspire those her story reaches. However, if you find this information too sensitive to read, you can find out more about our fundraising activity for Together for Short Lives here.


In February this year, Rachel and her family packed their bags for a truly special family holiday. Their destination? Center Parcs Elveden Forest in Suffolk.


Through our partnership with Together for Short Lives, every year 25 families like Rachel’s, who care for a child with a life-limiting condition, are gifted breaks at Center Parcs villages. It’s a time where they can spend quality time together as a family and focus on making precious memories.


"Being offered a gifted stay at Center Parcs is something our family will forever be grateful for. Our daughter's complex medical needs mean that it's often stressful to find a holiday that is suitable and can take a lot of organisation. Thanks to the wonderful teams at Together for Short Lives, Keech Hospice and Center Parcs, everything was so smooth and simple for our stay.”


“There really aren’t any words to say how special our hospice is to us”


Five-year-old Thea has a rare genetic disorder called Alagille Syndrome, which affects around one in every 30,000 live births. It carries several complications and for Thea, this means she has a complex congenital heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot, severe liver disease, one functioning kidney and fragile bones.


“Thea needs heart surgery and a liver transplant, but due to the complexities of her syndrome, we were told that she wouldn’t survive heart surgery. It was devastating. Thea was around two years old when she started receiving palliative care. This was when we met our second family: the amazing teams at Keech Hospice.


“For Thea, Keech is a safe haven. It’s somewhere she won’t be prodded and poked, somewhere she trusts, somewhere she can have fun and enjoys visiting. We have had some close calls where we didn't know if Thea would make it past a couple of days and our Keech nurse, Beth, has been there for us throughout some very difficult moments, offering support and helping us with those difficult decisions - she is an angel.”


“Keech have helped us make incredible, positive memories together as a family, so we can have moments that don’t always centre around the negative. There really aren't any words so say how special a place Keech is to us."


“We were absolutely blown away by how much Center Parcs had to offer”


It was through the Center Parcs partnership with Keech and Together for Short Lives that Rachel and her family received a gifted break at Center Parcs. When the time came for the family’s adventure, Thea, her sister, and her parents were joined by their nanny and grandad.



“We had never been to Center Parcs before and we were absolutely blown away by how much they had to offer for our daughter and her younger sister. Everyone was so accommodating; the facilities were so accessible (particularly the Subtropical Swimming Paradise) and we saw Thea’s confidence soar when trying things she would normally be hesitant about, like the Mini Trek."


“The absolute highlight of our stay had to be riding the ponies! Thea didn't stop talking about it afterwards and we've since looked in to accessing Riding for the Disabled for her. When she was recently admitted to hospital, the wonderful play team there knew how much she loved that experience and managed to organise some Pets as Therapy Ponies to visit Thea at her bedside."


"She was overjoyed and it’s an example of how those experiences at Center Parcs continue to have an impact on her quality of life. The memories we have built as a family are something we will hold closely to our hearts; we sadly lost Thea's Nanny shortly after this trip and we just don't know how long we have with Thea, but thanks to this opportunity, we are able to think so fondly of our wonderful memories together at Center Parcs."


Helping families make the most of every moment

At Center Parcs, bringing families together sits at the heart of everything we do. Through our partnership with Together for Short Lives, we work to make sure families like Rachel’s can make the most of every moment and every memory, whether that’s through our fundraising for hospices like Keech or gifting breaks to the families they care for.


If you’d like to support families like Rachel’s and the incredible hospices who care for them, you can visit the Together for Short Lives website to donate today.


If you or anyone you know are affected by any of the issues in this blog, you can visit the Together for Short Lives Family Support Hub for information and advice.


Hannah Dooley

As PR Assistant at Center Parcs, I’m here to give you an insight into all that is new and exciting across our villages. For me, there is no better family time than a short break in the forest and I’m lucky enough to be able to share everything I know, from lovely guests stories to top tips, so you can make the most out of your stay with us.

Hannah Parker