Among the carrots racing home for Christmas, dad’s gravy, ballet dancers in the snow and softly sung tunes about spreading kindness, one festive advert stands out.

There is no catchy Christmas tune to hum along to, no flashing tree lights, nothing to buy. Just a mum alone with her grief, gradually engulfed in ever-darkening shadows, alone and mourning the loss of her child.

Instead of being full of festive cheer, the short television advert – the first to be produced in its 28-year history by Children’s Hospices Across Scotland (CHAS) – is a bleak reminder that not all children will be around to celebrate Christmas, and urges Scots to help ensure their families are not left to cope with grief alone.

Accompanied by a radio version, the powerful advert is part of the charity’s most extensive fundraising drive, prompted by a year that has seen it pivot to create the world’s first ‘virtual’ online hospice service for children and wrestle with a drop in income.

“This campaign marks the biggest we’ve ever launched and given the challenges of this year, one of the most important,” says Iain McAndrew, Director of Fundraising and Communications at CHAS.

“The pandemic has seen our income decrease, with so many of our traditional fundraising activities cancelled, whilst the need for our services is increasing.

“We’ve had to adapt and adapt fast. This Christmas, we are calling on everyone who can to support Scotland’s most vulnerable children and help keep the joy alive even in the face of death.”

Finding joy while grappling with the pain of loss is possible, according to Lisa Stars, 40, whose son, Jaxon, was born just two days before Christmas in 2016 with devastating health problems that sparked fears he would not survive more than a fortnight.

Tests confirmed Ponto-cerebellar Hypoplasia, a neuro-degenerative disorder and Ohtahara Syndrome, an extremely rare form of epilepsy which causes seizures and developmental delay.

Jaxon was also found to have an extremely rare CASK gene mutation - fewer than 10 cases have been confirmed worldwide.

Lisa, 40, from Kincorth in Aberdeen, supported by CHAS, both through its CHAS at Home nurses’ service and at its Rachel House facility in Kinross.

The end came in February 2018, a few weeks after Jaxon’s first birthday and after a precious Christmas at home. Jaxon was just 13 months old.

“That Christmas with Jaxon was just magical,” says Lisa. “We had a colourful tree, silly Christmas jumpers, tinsel and lots of sparkles.

“It was so special because the previous Christmas, I hadn’t been allowed to hold my new-born baby, or even touch him in his incubator.”

Jaxon was on a planned visit to Rachel House when he died. “I was so grateful we were at Rachel House because everyone there knew Jaxon and understood my heartache,” adds Lisa.

“We spent the night there and all the staff were so kind and couldn’t do enough for me. They helped me to summon the strength to start making arrangements for his funeral.”

Lisa went on to raise more than £2,000 to help CHAS at Home purchase an additional temperature controlled ‘cuddle cot’ which enables grieving families to spend precious time with their infant.

Echoing the sentiment of the advert, she adds: “There are still so many families facing the death of their child alone.

“I can’t imagine how desperately difficult that must be. My baby Jaxon was the most special Christmas gift imaginable and when the time came to let him go, CHAS made sure I wasn’t alone.

“No family should have to face the death of their child on their own and, thanks to CHAS, we didn’t have to.”

Around 16,700 babies, children and young people in Scotland live with a life-shortening condition.

Throughout the pandemic, CHAS has transformed how it operates, with the launch of the first ever virtual children’s hospice offering support by phone and video to families seeking clinical guidance, financial advice and bereavement support.

Family support teams have worked remotely with children and families, offering activities, art clubs, storytelling and friendship calls.

Meanwhile, the charity’s end of life care services at Rachel House in Kinross and Robin House in Balloch have continued, along with its CHAS at Home nurses’ service.

Its specialist bereavement services helped Elderslie couple Brooke Wallace, 21, and fiancé Kyle Smith, 23, cope after the loss of their longed-for baby boy just after Christmas 2018.

Antenatal tests had confirmed Edward’s Syndrome, a life-shortening genetic condition. Despite the poor outlook, the couple proceeded with the pregnancy and were looking forward to their baby’s expected arrival on Valentine’s Day 2019.

However, Hunter’s heartbeat stopped two days before Christmas. He was born on Boxing Day weighing just 2lbs and 11oz.

A temperature-controlled cuddle cot meant the couple were able to spend time with Hunter, while CHAS bereavement specialists provided support.

“CHAS helped us decide that the 27th Dec would be Hunter’s last cuddle,” says Kyle. “CHAS helped us put the coffin lid on and say goodnight to our son for the last time. They hugged us and spoke to us for hours.”

The couple are now parents to baby Theodore but say they will not forget the support they received from CHAS as they mourned Hunter.

“We will always be grateful for what CHAS did for us and the respect and love they gave to our son,” adds Brooke.

“Without CHAS, it’s hard to imagine where we would be.”

To make a donation, visit: or call 0800 171 2427 To view the Christmas appeal TV advert, visit: