A brave nine-year-old boy is fronting the first ever Christmas appeal launched by the charity that built the Royal Borough's new children's hospice.

Zak Dyson and his family have been supported by the Alexander Devine Children’s Hospice Service for four years. This Christmas will be tough after they lost Zak's younger sister Neve in February this year.

Zak and Neve were born with a rare and severe immune deficiency. Doctors told the family that without a bone marrow transplant, the siblings would not live to teenage years.

The Alexander Devine charity helped them cope with medical procedures, normalising and coping play, school support, outings, and counselling support.

Zak underwent his procedure in 2015 when he was five. He spent three months in hospital and then a further year in and out of hospital, much of it in isolation. In June 2018, Neve received her bone marrow transplant but the five-year-old developed a virus. Alexander Devine continued to support the family and provided end of life support before Neve passed away just after her sixth birthday on February 22 this year.

Zak and Neve's mum Sharon Dyson said: "It will be a difficult Christmas, we know that. I don't feel like we are doing it on our own. We have Alexander Devine and they have always been there for us."

Fiona Devine, CEO and founder of Alexander Devine, which is based in Woodland Park Avenue, Maidenhead said: “The Christmas period can be a very difficult time for so many of our families and our support means different things to them all. For some, it might be the opportunity to get messy making festive crafts that families will always treasure. For others, it could be helping children to communicate through specialist play and music therapy or perhaps some much-needed respite for parents. For families like Zak’s, it will be the support they need to face their first Christmas without Zak’s beloved sister Neve.

“This is our first ever Christmas appeal and we want to raise awareness of the vital lifeline we provide. Our support is free to those that need us, but with only 4% government funding we rely heavily on donations and fundraising.”

To donate, either text NEVE to 70085 to donate £10 (this will cost £10 plus a standard rate message) or visit www.justgiving.com/campaign/devinechristmasappeal2019