Mugs up for Ronald McDonald House charities thanks to merchandising firm Sional

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The parents of  a boy who faced life-saving surgery when he was just weeks old are helping raise funds to support families of seriously ill children.

Albert Williamson, who now lives in Penmaenmawr, underwent lengthy emergency specialist surgery at Birmingham Children’s Hospital to remove a growth on his liver, caused by a blood clot.

Sional merchandising, Llanfairfechan; Pictured is Chris Williamson from Sional with his Son Albert, aged six.

His parents, Chris Williamson and Emily Hughes, stayed in the hospital’s Ronald MacDonald House while medics operated on their son and during his recovery, and have helped fund-raise for the charity ever since.

It provides free ‘home away from home’ accommodation and support to families who have seriously ill children at Birmingham Children’s Hospital. Last year the Ronald McDonald House in Birmingham, which is one of 14 Houses in the UK, helped 1,183 families stay close to their children in hospital.

Llanfairfechan-based merchandising company Sional, where Chris works, has donated more than 100 specially-printed mugs along with 500 stickers to the charity. The items are now on sale at the Birmingham House, with proceeds going towards running costs for the free service.

Sional managing director Alan Jones said: “We are a very family-orientated business as the team works closely together.  Since Chris joined us I have seen Albert, who is now six, grow up to be a lovely young lad.

“I was delighted to be able to help when Chris asked if we were able to send some promotional mugs to Birmingham to help raise funds for the Ronald MacDonald House chairites. We have our own in-house printing machine so it was very simple and quick to organise, and then send over to the charity.”

Chris said that Albert was born 11 weeks early, weighing just 2lb 4oz, and was cared for at the hospital’s neo-natal unit for several weeks. But just as he was about to be discharged, his belly began to inflate and he was diagnosed with a rare blood clot on his liver.

Chris added: “We were very lucky that Birmingham Childrens’ Hospital is a specialist liver centre for the UK and also that a specialist consultant for this condition was also on site when Albert was diagnosed. He was able to have the surgery straight away.

“He became ill very quickly and at one point we were warned he may not make it through the night, because he was so tiny.

“It turned out to be a blood clot on his liver, which was stopping the blood actually getting through and causing a bulge or growth. The specialist who operated on Albert put a line in through his leg and managed to unplug the blockage. Over the next few days the growth withered and died and his liver recovered.

“We stayed at the Ronald McDonald House while he was being cared for at the hospital. We were so happy when we were finally able to take him home, though he’s had to go back to the hospital several times to monitor his progression. I was working as a shop manager when he was born but quit so I could look after him, while my wife continued working as a teacher.

“We were then living in the Birmingham area due to our jobs, then but decided to move back to North Wales to be nearer our own parents, who both live in Penmaenmawr, and the rest of our relatives.

“Thanks to their support in helping to look after Albert, I am now able to work and joined Sional in customer sales.

“It’s a very friendly place to work, and the team is very close, with a lovely family atmosphere. The company owners, Alan and Sioned, often have their own grandchildren visit the office, and have been very understanding about Albert’s medical needs.

“Emily and I have tried to support the hospital with fund-raising whenever we can, and it struck me that branded mugs would be an excellent way of doing this.

“Here at Sional we produce thousands of branded mugs for our clients, so I suggested it to Alan, who was more than happy to help.”

Sional supplies more than 60,000 promotional products for customers from multinational companies, local authorities, health trusts, hotels, sports clubs and schools to one-off private orders for small events. Its promotional items include trophies, banners, key-rings, pens, wallets, toys, bags, umbrellas, branded pens, sports clothing, uniforms and hi-vis workwear, with items sent as far afield as Australia.

The Ronald McDonald House in Birmingham’s Fundraising Administrator Lydia Hextell said the Sional mugs were proving very popular.

She added: “On behalf of all of the families and the team here at the House, I would like to say a massive thank you to Sional for its support. Thanks to its donation of mugs and stickers, we can raise vital funds that will allow us to continue to provide comfort to families, offer them support and make life a little easier for them.

“The new Ronald McDonald House at Birmingham Children’s Hospital is one of our largest purpose built accommodation facilities. As well as providing 66 bedrooms we offer families the opportunity to cook together, to eat together and share their personal experiences. The House also offers a lounge, kitchen and play area for families visiting the hospital for the day.

“We provide families with more than just a place to sleep. We offer home comforts through our lounges, playrooms and kitchens, helping families enjoy important times of year by organising family-friendly activities and creating a welcoming and supportive environment for our families. One of our aims as a charity is to make a tough time a bit more bearable and this allows families to maintain some degree of normality and stay together whilst their child is unwell.

Birmingham Children’s Hospital, which treats more than 240,000 patients a year, is one of the top four specialist children’s hospitals in the UK. As a nationally designated specialist centre for epilepsy surgery the hospital sees patients from across the UK. The hospital houses a neo-natal department and a paediatric intensive care unit. As well as this the facility is also a trauma centre for the West Midlands, a national transplant centre and a centre of excellence for complex heart conditions and the treatment of burns, cancer, liver and kidney disease.

For more detail on Sional call 01248 689249 or visit sional.co.uk

For more information on Ronald McDonald House Charities please contact or visit www.rmhc.org.uk