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Tooting's First Touch celebrates one of its originators!

Tooting's First Touch celebrates one of its originators!

Jeannie Walls in the First Touch garden at St George’s

Sarah Collins of First Touch NNU in Tooting celebrates Jeannie Walls, who helped launch First Touch in 1998...

First Touch charity, which was originally called The Friends of the Neonatal Unit at St George's, started in 1998. The charity has grown and continues to evolve and change to respond to the needs of the babies, families and staff at St George's Hospital, but remains true to the ideals and aims of the super people who set it up in the late '90s.

One of the originators, Jeannie Walls, has remained a charity trustee all this time. A neonatal nurse, then neonatal sister she now works as a lead nurse for Resuscitation at St George's. At a trustee meeting last month Jeannie let us know that she has decided to step down as trustee.

Jeannie said, “It took much soul searching to finally ‘let go’ of First Touch – it’s been part of my life for so many years!

“I was single when we started 'The Friends of the Neonatal Unit at St George’s' as it was then. We had our first event, charity dog races, just after I returned from honeymoon. I’ve been married now for nearly 22 years, to give that timeframe some perspective. We raised £3,000 that night and it was like we’d won the lottery. By the end of the first year I think we’d brought in around £13,000 with the dog races, a comedy night and by selling slate cup mats. (I’m sure there’s still a couple lurking on the unit if you look closely enough!)

“First Touch is one of my proudest accomplishments and it’s been a difficult decision to step down. From little acorns a mighty charity has grown! I will of course always champion the cause.”

Fellow charity trustee and neonatal consultant, Dr Sandra Calvert, paid tribute to Jeannie and said, “To think it is so long since First Touch was 'born' is incredible. It certainly would not have happened without the energy and dedication of Jeannie, Catrin Grady, Suzie Radford and the other founding trustees. We all owe a huge amount of gratitude to Jeannie, who has stayed to guide the charity for so long.

“We will miss Jeannie and I realise it must have been a hard decision for her to 'cut the umbilical cord' but she will always be part of the charity which, thanks to her small beginnings, has grown from strength to strength. We hope that she enjoys the leaving presents we have given her, as a small token of our thanks.”

Nowadays First Touch raises around £200,000 each year for medical equipment, family welfare support and specialist nurse training at the neonatal unit. Many families will remember the skill, compassion and sense of humour that Jeannie brought to her role as a nurse at the nnu and the care that she gave to their babies. We'll definitely be dedicating a piece of medical equipment at the nnu to Jeannie, in thanks for her years of service. We wish Jeannie and her family all the best, and we send thanks for everything she has done for the neonatal unit and the charity. She is a true nursing superhero!

To find out more, please visit our website and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.


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