THE family of a brave little boy whose battle against a rare cancer inspired his parents to set up a charity in his memory have officially opened a new playground at a Kent pub which has been a big part of their lives.
The Sir Stanley Gray pub in Pegwell Village, Ramsgate, has invested £60,000 in a sunken ship-themed playground – the only one of its kind in the UK – which has been designed and manufactured by outdoor play experts, Creative Play.
Family members of two-year-old Alfie Gough, whose wake was held at the pub after he lost his battle with neuroblastoma back in 2010, were on hand to mark the official opening of the new play area.
Frank Thorley, who owns the pub along with a number of other sites which form Thorley Taverns, played his part in helping to raise money for Alfie’s parents, Sarah and Dean, when they were in the process of trying to fund treatment in America prior to their son’s death. And he has continued his support for the couple, now living in Vancouver, Canada, since they launched The Alfie Gough Trust which helps children fighting cancer.
Frank says Alfie’s battle touched the hearts of the community and he was delighted that his family members could come down to the pub and give the new play area their seal of approval. To mark the occasion he pledged a further £200 to their cause.
He said: “It’s fantastic to have Alfie’s family here. Since the Trust was set up we’ve been big supporters of it, holding fundraising evenings across our sites. It’s a fantastic cause. When you hear about kids who are struck down like that it’s horrific so we will do anything we can to highlight what they do.”
Speaking about the new play area, Frank added: “We selected Creative Play from a number of people and we’ve been very satisfied with what they’ve done. They’ve made a great job of the play area and I’m very happy. We’ve had the site for over 20 years and we’ve been gradually developing and extending it. We built an extension on a couple of years ago with a bar and restaurant and function room.The next thing was to look at building a play area which we got finished this year.We were looking at a pirate ship theme as we’ve had something similar on one of our other sites. That’s been a big attraction so we really wanted to do it here.We’ve done it from scratch. We’ve not had one here before but there was an area we could build it so it made sense. It’s right on the sea level and we’re really happy with it. We’ve also got beach huts to complement it. It’s lovely being by the sea but you’re restricted on the water’s edge. You’ve only got customers coming in from 180 degrees rather than 360 so it’s important you have things to attract people in.”
Each Creative Play playground is designed to suit the client’s specifications, depending on their budget and location. The equipment is designed and manufactured in Chester by the company’s in house teams, who use state of the art equipment and each specialise in timber, plastic or metal.
Creative Play’s own teams install all of the equipment and surfacing to meet the requirements of the client and their own rigorous quality standards.
Rob Williams, area manager at Chester-based Creative Play, said the project was his most challenging to date but also the one that has given him the greatest satisfaction. He said: “I went down to meet with Frank and at the time they were renovating a vast area of the pub and had an idea of a theme. We looked at having a bit of a traditional playground but with a modern twist so that’s why we went for the sunken ship as the area is by the sea. As well as the ship there are little islands around it with a treasure chest, play tower and tunnel. The ship has slides and climbing nets. It was a very difficult project. The area of the build is at the bottom of the cliff so there was no road access. We worked with Frank who organised cranes to lift everything down to the site. It was quite a challenge but once we overcame that the build was completed within three and a half weeks. We had pretty cold weather during the build and had to soldier on in high winds, but I’m delighted with the outcome. It’s amazing. It’s one of the best I’ve done. The design of the ship is the only one in the country – you won’t find it anywhere else. Given the challenges with the logistics of the build it was a very rewarding project to complete. It’s been wonderful to use its official opening to raise awareness of Alfie’s terrific charity which is clearly so well thought of in the local area.”
Alfie’s mum Sarah, 40, who is also mum to Harry, six, and Louis, four, with husband Dean, visited the new play area during a recent visit home and has thanked Frank for all his support over the years. She said: “My sister in law Tracey Todd has worked for Thorley Taverns for many years. We have used the pub as a family and held Alfie’s wake there. We spent time at the new play area with family and friends whilst we were back in the UK recently. It’s fantastic. The children absolutely loved it. Thorley Taverns have supported us for the past eight years since we started fundraising. We have been very lucky to have had, and continue to have, such great support from Thorley Taverns. The charity loves working and being involved with our local community as this was where it all started when everyone stopped to help our beautiful Alfie.”
Despite months of gruelling treatment, Sarah says Alfie passed away peacefully without pain, infections or suffering due to complementary treatments and support from a nutritional therapist.
The Alfie Gough Trust raises funds so other families can have access to the same services.
Sarah said: “Going through something like this changes you and the day we lost Alfie we felt we couldn’t go through this for nothing, we had to make something positive out of what happened. So we created The Alfie Gough Trust for three reasons. Firstly, we wanted Alfie to have a legacy, secondly we wanted to make a difference for children fighting cancer and our third reason was to give something back to our amazing community for all the support they gave our little boy. We learned a lot about complementary therapy during Alfie’s treatment and we felt this was a good way to help the children. We’ve helped set up a massage therapy room at Great Ormond Street Hospital which has helped so many children on a ward where Alfie spent most of his little life. It made us still feel close to Alfie and seeing the wonderful result this was having on so many children makes this something the charity is delighted to be part of.”
For more information about The Alfie Gough Trust visit alfiestrust.com
For more information visit: www.creativeplayuk.com or call 01244 375627. Facebook and Twitter @CreativePlayUK