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Tragic firefighter's children open Santa's grotto in Bexleyheath

PUBLISHED: 16:51 16 November 2015 | UPDATED: 16:51 16 November 2015

Santa's grotto in Bexleyheath

Santa's grotto in Bexleyheath

Archant

Ben and Layla Evans were chosen as special guests to unveil the grotto in aid of the Greenwich & Bexley Community Hospice

The children of a London fireman who lost his battle with a rare cancer a year ago brought the magic of Christmas to Bexleyheath this weekend when they officially opened Santa’s grotto.

Ben and Layla Evans were chosen as special guests of Santa on Saturday as they unveiled the Broadway shopping centre’s charity grotto in aid of the Greenwich & Bexley Community Hospice.

It was a proud moment for mum Helen, who has tried to keep them busy with sports activities since her husband, Nick, died in August last year aged 46.

“I’m really proud of them,” she said.

“Even though they’re so young they try to be strong for me. I don’t ever see them falling apart, it amazes me. They’re sociable children and because they do so much outside of school I think it helps. We all just pull together.

“Opening the grotto means a lot to them, especially my daughter who is very much into the magic of Christmas.”

Peter Sedge, manager at Broadway shopping centre said: “Nick’s family are absolutely lovely. Their story is testament to the work the hospice does to support local people in their darkest hours.

“I hope lots of families will come and visit Santa in the grotto, and make a donation to support this worthy cause.”

Sarah O’Halloran, fundraising manager for the hospice added: “We’re so delighted that Ben and Layla were able to open our Santa’s Grotto. We wish them and all our generous supporters a very Happy Christmas.”

The grotto, which is open until December 24, is an annual feature of the shopping centre. It is run by the hospice to raise much-needed funds for its care services for people with life limiting illnesses, including a bereavement service for those who have lost loved ones.

Last year, the grotto raised in excess of £40,000 for terminally ill patients and their families, and attracted 5,791 visits.

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