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Two humbling, uplifting hours at vital young people's institution needing £4m refurbishment

Katie laughs with - or maybe with - Alastair Stewart. Photo: Naomi House

I spent virtually all of a marvellous Sunday, show-jumping with two of my children.

Freddie acted as 'chef d'equipe' and Oscar rode his heart out to two-clear rounds on "Carlos" and "Phoebe".

I was proud, pleased and still got home in time to finish off the Sunday papers.

I spent two precious hours on Monday morning at the Naomi House Hospice, near Winchester, where they are trying to raise £4m for the refurbishment of an establishment that has served Hampshire and much of the south with professionalism, love and dignity since 1997.

I can remember the arrival of all of our four children with a sense of celebration, achievement, hope and boundless, unconditional love.

They've had their health scares, they've thrown the occasional curved ball and they've even made us angry on occasion - the variables of normal parenthood and you take them in your stride.

Oscar Stewart rides Carlos at the weekend.

Imagine being told your child is going to die much sooner than any reasonable expectation could predict; that, for your family, all the data on morbidity and mortality doesn't apply; your child is going to die and sooner than is, in any conceivable sense, fair.

For the 650 families Naomi House have helped since being opened back in 1997 by the Prince of Wales, that is the chilling realty; and it is for the 130 families they helping today.

Some spend their final days as residents - moving from their own room to the 'Butterfly Suite' when that ghastly inevitability becomes immediate.

Others visit as their parents make use of the brilliant respite package - a break, not from the love - for that never goes - but from the grinding, wrenching trials of looking after a little one who is going to be taken from you far too soon.

The staff are just awesome. I asked one today if she, herself, took a 'respite' break from the emotionally and physically taxing vocation she had answered.

"No," she said. "It is what I do. It is what I love doing."

As we launched the appeal, Cory and Katie joined us in their wheel-chairs. Katie is the lovely young woman - laughing with me, or at me - I don't much care. I loved her laughter.

Cory didn't do any laughing. But his mother and delightful sisters did a lot of smiling.That despite knowing what lay ahead for Cory and for them.

They knew what Naomi House was giving them, and Cory; it seemed to please them.

It was both humbling and uplifting.

It was two of the best hours I have spent in years.