Mum creates amazing winter wonderland in conservatory for sick daughter

A mum has created an amazing winter wonderland in her conservatory as her daughter is too ill to visit Christmas attractions.

Now in their fourth year, Helen Sadler, with the help of her dad Phillip, has created an amazing festive scene, with a castle and snow queen on moving pedestals.

Every year, Phillip creates the mechanics of the scene and Helen does all the crafting, using everything from cotton wool to leftover medicine boxes.

It’s all for her daughter Erin, seven, who lives with a range of life-limiting conditions.

Sadly, Erin has been in hospital after becoming seriously ill at Halloween so has only been able to look at pictures and videos of the amazing rotating scene this year.

But Erin and Helen decided to use it to raise some money for a charity that has been a huge support to them over the years – Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity.

Helen, from Colchester, Essex, tells ‘Erin lives with diseases that affect her liver, kidneys, heart and spleen. She has vasculitis, she’s had a heart attack and has needed 112 blood transfusions over the years, an encephalopathy and a mass hemorrhage.

‘There isn’t a name for Erin’s problems but her condition is progressive and life-limiting.

‘For the past three years, we’ve nearly lost her at least once each year but this time has been really awful.

‘She had pulmonary edema – excess fluid on the lungs – and an infection. Because of her heart condition, she has a high risk of complications with anesthetic, but they had to give her three in a week because she was so ill.’

Erin pulled through and has now been moved from Great Ormond Street hospital to their local hospital in Colchester, and they hope she may be able to return home in time for Christmas.

Although Erin was away for the build up to the festive season year, Helen decided she wanted to continue the winter wonderland tradition she started four years ago.

She explains: ‘I did the first year because Erin was meant to be going to Lapland but she was too ill, so I created something for her in the conservatory.

‘Every year I try to make it better than before, and I don’t plan anything. I just sit down when I have respite hours and try to create something.

‘There’s always snow, a castle and a queen but made slightly differently.

‘I use what we have around and save bits from each year to reuse – but get rid of all the cardboard each time to make a new one.’

This year, she wanted to use it as a chance to raise some money for charity and chose the one that is very close to their hearts.

Helen explains: ‘We have been supported by Rainbow Trust since 2015. We have a wonderful family support worker called Sarah, who is just fantastic. She has been with us through so much.

‘Erin loves her and she will check in on my dad if we’re in hospital too. She really has helped the whole family.

‘Covid has hit every charity really hard and we know how important raising funds is. Rainbow Trust is such a remarkable charity and we’ll do everything we can to support them.’

Helen is sharing the winter wonderland online and asking people to text to donate in Erin’s name.

Helen adds: ‘The whole thing is just made with so much love. It started to make her happy. She knows mummy and granddad made it.

‘She can’t go out to see things any year, never mind just during the pandemic, and it’s what we do to try to make Christmas as special as possible.

‘I know we don’t have an indefinite amount of Christmases so we make the most of each one.’

Despite living with many serious conditions, Helen says Erin is an amazing child who loves to have fun.

She adds: ‘She’s also you know, an absolute tornado of a child. She’s hilarious.

‘I know it’s so cliche but she is not defined by her illness or illnesses. She has a sense of humor way beyond her years, and she runs me ragged.

‘She’s just a phenomenal and she really makes a mark on people.

‘I share her journey on our Facebook page Erin the Warrior and her zest for life and I think when people see her and hear her story, the winter wonderland is really touching. I hope that it will inspire them to donate if they can.’

When Christmas is over, Helen packs up and reuses what she can, including the fake snow, but the cardboard structures are disposed of off so she can make something different the following year.

But after putting so much work in at such a difficult time this year, Helen is not sure if she will carry it on in 2021.

She laughs: ‘Last year I said it was the last one but then at the Christmas dinner table, I was already planning another one.

‘I’m not sure how we top this one so it might be the final one but we’ll see what happens.’

To support the winter wonderland fundraising appeal, you can text ERIN and the amount you want to donate to 70490.

Texts cost the amount you donate plus one standard rate message and you’ll be opting in to hear more about Rainbow Trust’s work and fundraising via telephone and SMS. If you’d like to give but do not wish to receive marketing communications, text ERINNOINFO and the amount to 70490.

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