From Cotton Orchard to the Arctic

When Sian Nunn of Cotton Orchard mentioned that many of the items on her stall at the Makit LQ&N Christmas Fair would be sold to raise money for children’s hospice Noah’s Ark, we were interested to know more. As you can imagine, our interest increased even further when we learned that Sian is currently in training to complete a 250-kilometre husky sledding challenge in the Arctic in April 2018 to raise money for the same hospice.

Elsie’s story


Sian has a deeply personal reason for agreeing to drive a team of spirited huskies across the Arctic.

Back in 2015, Elsie – the young daughter of Sian’s dear friend, Helen – relapsed with leukaemia. Elsie’s family was told that she had little chance of survival and that they would need to think about palliative care for their little girl.

Elsie’s future seemed hopeless; her doctors suggested various treatment options but always warned that the chances of success were slim and treatment-related suffering or even death was a very real risk.

The family tirelessly explored every avenue and even began thinking about palliative and end-of-life care as the doctors had recommended. To their surprise and dismay, they couldn’t find any residential hospices for children in North London.

It was during this desperate time that Elsie’s family discovered Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospice, a charity that provides hospice-at-home care to children with life-limiting or life-threatening conditions in North and Central London and Hertsmere. The charity also offers invaluable support for families, specialized care, activities and therapies.

Staff at Noah’s Ark soon became a lifeline of reassurance and positivity to Elsie and her loved ones. From her specialist carer who offered Elsie’s mum and dad moments of respite to a play specialist who played with Elsie when she had virtually no contact with the outside world, Noah’s Ark made such a difference.


Elsie with Jules 2

Thankfully, Elsie’s family decided to pursue treatment. Two-and-a-half years on, Elsie is a healthy, happy four-and-a-half-year-old who enjoys life the same as any other little girl. She has exceeded all of her doctors’ expectations.

Supporting other families

Although Elsie may not need support from Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospice anymore, other sick children and their families require access to palliative care and end-of-life support, as well as to know that they’re not facing this daunting journey alone.

Noah’s Ark needs to raise £2million to build a residential hospice to provide care and support for desperately sick children and their families at the most difficult of times. Helen says, “We are eternally grateful to Noah’s Ark for everything they’ve done for Elsie and us as a family, and it’s now time for us to give something back and help them raise vital funds to build this much-needed hospice”.

Jules, Elsie’s carer from the Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospice was featured on this wonderful video from Children in Need, which explains a bit more about how he and the wider organisation supports families:

The Husky Sledding Challenge

Husky-challenge-5The way Helen is helping to raise these vital funds is by taking part in the husky sledding challenge. She says of the challenge, “The small print reads – camping in sub-zero temperatures, running up-hill alongside sledges, no toilets, cooking our own freeze-dried meals, having a team of bounding huskies to manage – to name but a few challenges that sledging in the arctic wilderness will bring. But Elsie is our hero, she has shown us pure resilience and endurance in the face of adversity; this brilliance of Elsie will be our energy and heat reserve when those Arctic miles get tough!”

Having seen Helen and her family survive the worst of times, Sian has decided to take part in the challenge too. “I don’t do cold or big dogs,” she told us, “so it will test me!”

Sian and Helen’s 250km journey will begin on 8th April 2018. There will be a maximum of 12 people in the sledding team and two leaders. The plan is to be on the move for 12 hours of daylight per day over eight days. Helen and Sian will be sharing a two-man tent and cooking together.

To get their cardiovascular fitness and upper body strength to a good level, the intrepid pair is trying to fit in an hour and a half of gym time and swimming before the school drop off and work most days. Sian is also running her dog for between three to five kilometres a day.

Quilting for Noah’s Ark

In addition to the sledding run, Sian is creating a Hunters Star quilt and a memory quilt to be auctioned off at a charity ball and auction in London in February to raise further funds for Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospice. Just last weekend, she also hosted a fundraising dinner party for 16 at her house and raised just over £500!

Sian will also be selling Christmas tree decorations, patchwork gift wrap and other items for donations to Noah’s Ark at the Makit Christmas Fair at Cranmore Park on 2nd December. In the case of her patchwork cushion kits for £12, all proceeds will go to the hospice.

We’re sure you will join us in wishing Sian – and Helen – all the best for their incredible journey into the Arctic on 8th April.

You can read more about the fundraising campaign at