Traffic came to a standstill outside Keech Hospice Care on Sunday as people queued to get in for Keech Fest – the official opening of the Alan Titchmarsh wildlife garden - including a mum from Stotfold.
Formalities were delayed for 15 minutes and even though it began to rain just as the entertainment started, nothing could dampen the spirit of the 2,000 plus crowd.
They’d come to see the garden for themselves and to celebrate everything the hospice meant to them and their families as well as the local community.
Stotfold mum Lisa Zsentko, 39, represented all the families who’ve been helped by the hospice.
Her three-year-old son Stone was left brain damaged after contracting pneumococcal meningitis and was sent there for end-of-life care.
That was more than a year ago and the little boy is now thriving. Lisa said: “Keech means everything to me. It’s the only place I can go without feeling judged.”
BBC 3CR presenter Roberto Perrone did the opening honours and described Keech as “very special and close to our hearts” – which summed up the mood and the amosphere.
Outgoing chief executive Mike Keel said he was leaving on a high and the fact that the hospice was chosen for the popular ITV Love Your Garden programme was a fitting finale – particularly as there were 100 national organisations in the running.
“Goodness attracts goodness,” he smiled. “Alan is a delightful man – he said they’d never done anything on this scale before, it was really inspirational.
“What was even more amazing – and I don’t think he knows this – we’ve got some aerial photographs of the new garden and it’s shaped like the heart on our hospice logo.”
Mike has accomplished everything he set out to achieve during his 17 years at Keech.
“The building work is complete, the hospice is friendly, open and innovative and it’s well known and respected in the community,” he said.
Sandra Bevan from Slip End was there with her granddaughter Holly, who was entranced by Dora the Explorer – one of several cartoon characters mimgling with young visitors.
Sandra said: “My Mum was here 14 years ago. She had cancer and she said it was like coming to a five star hotel.
“We’ve watched it grow over the years and it’s really lived up to all our expectations – it’s a lovely, beautiful place.”