Published: 16:28, 23 April 2004
MORE than 4,000 children and their families are expected to descend on Gillingham in August for a unique special birthday bash.
Children from across the country, along with their parents, will help the life-saving baby unit celebrate its 21st birthday.
The Oliver Fisher Special Care Baby Unit, was the brainchild of Dr Oliver Fisher, a consultant paediatrician who joined staff at All Saints Hospital, Chatham, in 1956.
At the time there were no special care facilities for sick or premature babies. So he took the first steps towards special care and introduced two incubators in the corner of an adult ward.
It was Dr Fisher's foresight and his fundraising efforts, which laid the groundwork for the unit and its success today. Mr Fisher retired in 1981 saw his dream for a unit at Medway Maritime opened two years later in 1983.
So later this year the unit will celebrate 21 years of successfully caring and treating premature and small babies.
Health chefs and staff are currently organising the huge birthday bash and they intend to invite as many of the 7,000 babies which have been treated in the unit to the party along with their families.
To achieve this, staff need to raise £100,000 and are looking for companies across Kent to help them out with sponsorship.
Julie Manning, spokesman for the unit, said: "Obviously we won't be using money already raised by the public for the unit as this money is constantly needed to buy specialist equipment for the unit. So we are looking for help from companies to help out with the cost."
The party has been arranged for this summer and will be held on Sunday, August 29.
Mrs Manning added: "It is going to be a huge celebration which will be held at the Black Lion Leisure Centre, Mill Road, Gillingham.
"Since the unit opened all those years ago more than 7,000 babies have received care in it. We are hoping as many children as possible will come and help us celebrate."
The birthday fun day will start at 10am and continue until 10pm and will also include various fund-raising activities for guests to take part in to raise money for the unit.
The unit is already busy trying to raise funds for the party and is holding an on-line auction for a helicopter tour of London.
The unit is giving away two tickets to enjoy the exhilarating helicopter tour of London from Biggin Hill. The prize can be taken at any time and will be awarded to the highest bidder. To place your bid please email Julie.Manning@medway.nhs.uk
Staff are hoping that children who were looked after in the early years will come back with their children. Families will be charged a £5 entrance fee but all the entertainment will be free. There will also be a disco in the evening.
All you have to do to get yourself or your child or children on the invitation list is write to: Julie Manning, 21st Birthday Celebration, The Oliver Fisher Special Care Baby Unit, Medway Maritime Hospital, Windmill Road, Gillingham, Kent.