It is with great sadness that we bid a fond farewell to our Patron for the last 31 years, Shirley Tart MBE DL, who died peacefully at home on Christmas Day.

Shirley was with us at their very start of our journey, when building a children’s hospice for Shropshire, Cheshire, Mid and North Wales was only a dream.

A widely respected and renowned regional journalist, Shirley was an integral part of the small group of devoted people who launched our charity in 1991 with the ambition of raising £1.5 million to build Hope House at Oswestry.

Her position as a well-known columnist and Women’s Editor at the Shropshire Star enabled her to spread the word far and wide and encourage everyone in the county to become involved.

As Shirley recalls in a feature she wrote about Hope House on our 21st anniversary:

“During those early days at the beginning of the 1990s, I was so fortunate to be part of the wider team which was committed to a children's hospice and we at the Shropshire Star ran a programme of stories, information, events and so on which the newspaper was proud to feature.

“For me, of all the fantastic experiences in which I've been so fortunate to be involved over more than 50 years, this one has been the greatest privilege of all and still is. It was indeed very humbling to be appointed one of the charity's early patrons.”

Shirley was invited to become our patron in 1995, when we opened our doors for the first time. She was an incredible ‘hands on’ ambassador, visiting Hope House many times where she had an instant and close rapport with both children and families. She was also a keen supporter of charity events in aid of the hospice across the region and beyond.

In 2005 we celebrated our 10th anniversary and Shirley wrote and published a special book ‘Coming Home – the Hope House Story’. She spent many happy days signing books at our Hope House shops and enjoying chatting to the supporters and fans who rushed to buy copies and raise more money to fund our vital services.

In 2007 Shirley launched a Golden Years appeal to celebrate her 50 years in the newspaper industry with a year of fundraising for two charities very dear to her – Hope House and the Severn Hospice. A whirlwind of events including garden parties and concerts saw Shirley and her friends raise an incredible £32,000 to help the two charities.

Shirley’s unstinting support continued through our appeal to raise the funds to build Tŷ Gobaith in North Wales, and through our 21st Birthday year in 2016 where she led a year of fundraising once again in the Shropshire Star and was Guest of Honour at our Birthday Ball at the British Ironworks Centre.

Just last October Shirley was presented with an award to mark the incredible 30 years she had devoted to volunteering for Hope House.

Our chief executive Andy Goldsmith paid tribute to Shirley and her passion for helping children.

"Shirley was with Hope House from the very start and was hugely instrumental in rallying support for the idea of a children’s hospice to serve our region. She has been an influential patron, a hard-working ambassador and a true and loyal friend to Hope House, publicising our work and even writing a book about us.

“Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this sad time," he said.

The vice chair of our board of trustees, Barbara Evans, who was also part of the 1991 founding group and worked closely with Shirley for three decades said: “Shirley will be sorely missed by everyone at Hope House, from the children and families, to the staff, volunteers and the Board of Trustees.”