Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond opened today a newly revamped playroom at Malcolm Sargent House, the Prestwick holiday home run by CLIC Sargent, the UK’s leading cancer charity for children and young people.
A year ago thieves stole lead from the roof of Malcolm Sargent House, which provides free holidays and short breaks for children and young people and their families who are coping with cancer. The playroom, which was directly under the part of the roof stripped of lead, was badly water-damaged by rainfall following the theft. Dozens of toys in the playroom were also damaged and had to be thrown away. It was estimated that repairs to the roof and playroom would cost £40,000. But members of the public helped with the repairs for free, saving on costs for the charity.
At the opening ceremony, Mr Salmond met families supported by CLIC Sargent, as well as staff and volunteers, and unveiled a plaque.
The First Minister said: "Thankfully childhood cancer is very rare, but each diagnosis is devastating for the children and young people and their families. During this difficult time, CLIC Sargent does an excellent job of providing vital support and assistance when it is needed most.
"Like everyone in this community, I was extremely saddened to hear about the mindless act of vandalism and theft that caused great damage to Malcolm Sargent House last year. However, I am delighted to see that something good has come from that incident, with this magnificent new playroom for the young people who visit here.
"I am really impressed by the hard work and dedicated efforts of all the staff, volunteers and the community who have rallied around CLIC Sargent in its hour of need and enabled this wonderful playroom to be built. I am sure that the families who benefit from this new facility will join with me in acknowledging the tremendous support and assistance CLIC Sargent brings to them. It is therefore a great pleasure for me to open the new playroom at Malcolm Sargent house, and I hope that it brings lots of fun and happiness to the youngsters who use it in the years to come."
The thieves also took zinc from a gazebo in the garden at Malcolm Sargent House. Strathclyde police said that there had been a spate of metal thefts in the area.
The ceiling, lights, walls and cornicing in the playroom, as well as the roofing, had to be replaced. Local firms, including builders and electricians, did the work, much of it for free. Celtic Football Club donated toys and signed shirts. Scottish international footballer James Forrest, who comes from Prestwick, visited Malcolm Sargent House after the theft. Local builders also rendered the outside, and put in CCTV and new gates. In June last year Malcolm Sargent house held a dinner to thank everyone who had helped with the repairs.
Community Fundraising Manager May Gilchrist said: "We really appreciated the opportunity to meet the First Minister and his team and show them our new playroom. The way the local community helped us after the lead theft was fantastic. It meant we could continue to support children and young people and their families, for whom staying at Malcolm Sargent House makes all the difference when they are struggling to cope with cancer."
Watch the Scottish Government's video of Alex Salmond's visit.