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Children’s books worth more than £750 have been donated to Tunbridge Wells Hospital thanks to a couple joining forces with a local business.

Tom Martell, Chef Manager and Carer at Woodlands Care Home in Crowborough, wanted to give back to the hospital to thank staff for the care they provided to his girlfriend’s baby. Robyn Gibbins’s daughter Ella spent five months on the neonatal unit after she was born prematurely on 17 October 2017, followed by a month on Hedgehog Ward, before going home on 29 March 2014 – just in time for Mother’s Day. Sadly, Ella passed away on 30 July 2015 aged 21 months.

After hearing that the books and toys on Hedgehog Ward, Woodlands Unit and the Neonatal Unit had to be discarded as part of infection prevention and control measures due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the couple decided to raise funds to help buy new books and enlisted the help of Ann Morris, whose business Bookmania, in partnership with Usborne, raises funds to help buy books for schools, nurseries and charities.

Thanks to donations from businesses and charities across Kent and east Sussex, including a £250 donation from the satellite Rotary Club of Southborough and Pembury, £750 was raised in a couple of months. Bookmania also donated free books worth 10% of the total monies raised. The books were recently presented to members of Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust’s play team.

Tom said: “We try to do small donations little and often to the hospital but after dropping a collection of Easter eggs off for children on Hedgehog Ward back in April and hearing about the books being thrown away due to the pandemic, we decided to up our efforts and start a collection to replace them.

“Ann played a huge part in making our vision become a reality so we are very grateful to her and her business for helping us reach our goal. Importantly, we couldn’t have done it without the support and backing of all those who donated, so from the bottom of mine and Robyn’s heart, ‘thank you’.”

Ann, who lives in Southborough, said: “I feel very privileged that Tom and Robyn contacted me. I am hugely passionate about sharing the love of reading amongst children of all ages and being able to give back to the community has always been close to my heart.

“I have been blown away by the generosity of the donors and would like to say a huge thank you to all of them for their support.”

Peter Cornish, a member of the satellite Rotary Club of Southborough and Pembury, said: “Our donation was collected by Rotary Members over the last year and a half during charity collections at the Tesco store in Pembury.

“For many years the Rotary Club members have put Christmas decorations up on Hedgehog Ward for the children and staff. Donations have also been made to buy presents for the children in hospital over the festive period so we were only too pleased to be able to support the request to help fund books for children at the hospital.”

Jackie Tyler, MTW’s Lead Matron for Pediatrics, said: “We are extremely grateful to Ann, Tom and all the donors for their generous donation.

“Having the new books will bring a lot of joy to the children on our wards and units and will not only put a smile on their faces but also help to pass the time away during their stay with us.”