THE STORY BEHIND THE DERBY SANDS MEMORY BOX
On 9th January 2009, my husband and I walked out of the Labour Ward at Derby City Hospital at 10pm with two
broken hearts and a brown NHS envelope containing a lock of hair and a small card with 2 perfect baby
footprints inside. Our daughter had been stillborn less than 24 hours earlier.
We had no follow up appointment and no information whatsoever about what to do next and where to get
support. At home, numb with shock and disbelief I stared at those footprints and lovingly stroked the tiny piece
of hair over and over again desperate to recreate the memory of giving birth, of holding my beautiful girl and
of kissing her goodbye. Had I really had the baby, was this just some horrific nightmare? I was lucky to have
photos that my husband and father in law took, at the time it seemed so inappropriate to photograph such a
devastating event but I will be forever grateful that they took those pictures.
I stumbled upon Sands by chance when searching on-line in the days after Lauren’s death, desperate to find
information about stillbirth and connect with others who had been through the same and would understand.
Whilst searching, I discovered that a few hospitals in the UK presented bereaved parents with a memory box to
gather treasured mementoes of their little one. I knew instantly that I had to set up a memory box scheme in
Derby so that parents would be encouraged to collect as many memories as possible to treasure in the dark
Six weeks after Lauren’s stillbirth I attended my first Sands meeting and presented the small group with a large
sum of money that had been donated by our family and friends. I suggested that I use the money to set up the
memory box scheme on the Labour Ward and things took off from there. The project really gave me something
positive to think about, it was a focus for me. Whilst making up the boxes I felt so close to Lauren and I felt
that together we were doing something really special so that bereaved parents would not feel so lost and alone
as Matt and I did.
The first memory box was given out on the Labour Ward in August 2009 and contained a teddy bear, a baby
blanket, a memorial candle, a Derby Sands information pack, and a hand-made card (for hand and foot prints)
and cost approximately £10 to make up. Parents could keep all the treasured mementoes of their baby in the
box such as identity bracelets, locks of hair, hand and footprints, photographs, baby clothing and blanket,
cards from friends and family etc.
Over the four and a half years since I have been making up the boxes for the Royal Derby Hospital the scheme
has been extended to the Gynaecological Ward (for women who have had a late miscarriage and have to go
through labour) and the Neonatal Unit and the boxes have grown both in size and content. Derby Sands relies
entirely upon generous donations from the public (many are bereaved parents who have received a box
themselves and want to ensure that someone else will benefit like they have) to fund the memory boxes, and
approximately 100 boxes are given out at the hospital each year. In addition, an average of 10 boxes are
distributed each year to parents who move to Derby and have given birth elsewhere and didn’t receive a box.
WHAT IS IN A MEMORY BOX AND HOW MUCH DO THEY COST?
At the current time (January 2014) each box and its contents costs up to £20. Each beautiful memory box is
embossed with two tiny gold hand and footprints and the words “Always Loved Never Forgotten” and contains
the following items:
Two identical teddies (one for baby and one for the parents to keep)
Hand knitted baby blanket (some parents choose to leave the blanket with their baby and others will wrap
their little one in it and then take it home afterwards)
Two memorial candles engraved with the words “even the smallest of feet have the power to leave everlasting
footprints upon this world”
Hand-made card for the hand and footprints to be placed inside
Derby Sands information leaflet and six national Sands support booklets for different family members and
“Saying Goodbye to your Baby” book packed full of vital information
A digital camera card (compatible with the digital camera that Derby Sands has bought the Labour Ward)
A wooden or ceramic star shaped ornament, engraved with the words “little star”
MAKING A DONATION TOWARDS OUR MEMORY BOXES
If you would like to make a donation to Derby Sands to help fund a memory box then you can either:
- donate money by cheque, made payable to “Sands Derby” and post to Lesley Boreham, Treasurer for Derby
Sands, 7 Lens Road, Allestree, Derby, DE22 2NB or transfer your donation directly from your bank account into
our memory box bank account using on-line banking. Please email Lesley Boreham at firstname.lastname@example.org for
our bank account details.
- if you would rather make a cash donation then please email Lesley and we will arrange collection.
WHAT DO BEREAVED PARENTS SAY ABOUT THEIR MEMORY BOX
The feedback from parents who have received a memory box has been amazing. Parents have written me cards
and told me first hand just how important their baby’s memory box is to them, how it is their most treasured
possession. They can hold and smell the blanket that was wrapped around their little one and be transported
back to those precious few minutes, hours or days that they had with their baby. They can hold the little teddy
bear, run their finger over the foot and hand prints and then look at a photograph of their baby with the same
“Tommy's memory box is literally the most important thing I own now, it is my biggest memory of my baby and
holds the most important things; things that touched him. Photos are good but his things which belonged to
him for a short time are so important to me. The box is like his home, to me he lives there and once I've
opened it up he is closer to me. It's so precious nobody else is allowed to touch it, I treat it like I would treat a
baby and take care that nothing ever gets put on it or touches it which could harm it. To us it is our child now.
When I touch his hat or blanket it is now my only connection to my child and the only time he can be with his
mummy." Rebecca, March 2013 (mummy to Tommy, born asleep).
Many have commented that the booklets and leaflets in the box were invaluable and helped to support them
through and signpost them to sources of support. It is such a comfort to many parents to know that they are
not alone and that Derby Sands is just an email or phone call away.
For family and friends who never met the baby, the whole experience may seem unreal, as if there never was
any baby but by sharing the memory box with others, parents’ can help others to understand what they have
For siblings, memory boxes are invaluable. Existing children may be far too young to understand at the time
the baby dies and children born after a loss find it incredibly hard to comprehend that they have an older
brother or sister who died. So the memory box can help to build up a picture when the child is of an age to
DERBY SANDS SAYS A MASSIVE THANK YOU TO TOMMY’S PARENTS
In September 2012, in my role as Chair and a befriender for Derby Sands I met an absolutely lovely couple,
Charles and Rebecca Hanson at their home. Just one week earlier, their precious little baby boy, Tommy, had
been stillborn at 27 weeks gestation. Charles decided at that very early stage that he wanted to do some
fundraising so that others could benefit from the memory boxes like he and his wife had.
At the start of 2013 Charles told me the fantastic news that he and 16 of his colleagues from the BBC’s
Antiques Road Trip had got places to take part in the Great North Run. The 17 runners in the team represented
the 17 babies that die every day in the UK from stillbirth (11 babies every day) and neonatal death (6 babies
die within the first four weeks of life every day).
The press interest was amazing and the team featured in our local and National newspapers as well as on Radio
and TV. The exposure for Sands was incredible, and all the time awareness of our charity was being raised. In
preparation for the event Derby Sands designed the runners vest with the Sands logo on the back and a large
heart on the front of the vest with 17 of our little babies photos inside. It meant so much to the 17 parents to
know that indirectly, their baby was going to help raise awareness and funds for Sands and might even get on
Charles and the other celebrities from the show were interviewed live on TV just before the race. All 17
runners successfully completed the course and none were as proud of Charles, who ran his heart out for his
To date, Derby Sands has received a phenomenal £7000 from the teams JustGiving page and National Sands has
received in excess of £25,000.
In addition to this, members of the Derbyshire public have been donating to Derby Sands via Hanson’s Auction
House, in Etwall, Derbyshire and these donations have amounted to a further £2500.
As the Chair and Treasurer of Derby Sands I am absolutely thrilled that Charles’ event, in memory of little
Tommy was such a huge success and as a result, friends, family, colleagues of the runners and the great British
public have come together to raise a staggering amount of money for Sands. I would like to say a massive thank
you to all 17 of the runners who gave up so much of their time to train and then take part in the event, you are
all amazing and should be so very proud of your achievement. And as for all those who actually donated, I only
wish I could personally thank every single person. I just can’t believe how generous everyone has been, it’s
incredible, but then Charles and his colleagues are well known and well loved by many and baby loss has
touched more peoples’ lives than we realise.
In December 2013, I opened a new Derby Sands bank account, named “Tommy’s Memory Box Account” and the
£9500 has been deposited in there. The money will be used solely to fund memory boxes at the Royal Derby
Hospital. Some of the money has already been spent on candles and digital camera memory cards.
The massive sum of money that has been transferred to National Sands will be used to set up a National
Memory Box project which will supply boxes to UK hospitals that are not supported by a Sands Group and are
unable to fund the boxes independently. Ultimately, Sands wants to ensure that every bereaved family is
offered a memory box.
I honestly cannot thank Charles and Rebecca Hanson enough for channelling their grief in such a positive and
productive way that will benefit bereaved families for years to come. Not forgetting the rest of the team and
all those who donated money, everyone has been unbelievably kind, generous and supportive.
A project that started off in 2009 that I privately referred to as Lauren’s memory boxes has now progressed and
evolved into Tommy’s memory boxes, thanks to his mummy and daddy’s drive and determination.
Lou Evans, Jan 10th 2014
Supporting anyone affected by the death of a baby and
promoting research to reduce the loss of babies’ lives
Charity registration number 299679