Once upon a time, a beautiful and desperately ill young girl made three very special wishes. She left a little red box at her bedside where they were found, with messages of love for her family and her young husband, after she died on New Year’s Day, 1996. Donna Curtis had just turned 20, she had spent her last four years fighting cancer. In that time Donna saw the suffering of many terminally ill children and vowed her legacy would help them live a little more happily in the time they had left. Her parents, Len and Babs Curtis, have made it their labour of love to fulfil their only daughter’s fairytale dream as a lasting tribute to her courage (and if truth be known theirs). Len Curtis MBE, who was chairman of the resort’s private hoteliers' association admits "I was ready to jump off a pier. My family businesses, it all suffered. It’s a wonder we didn’t go under." Instead, they set about making the dream of their late daughter Donna a reality.
Donna’s Dream House is a holiday home for children with life-threatening or terminal illnesses, situated in the heart of the town, on Chapel Street, Blackpool. Once a derelict hotel which was volunteered by the Council for a peppercorn rent, the property is now a haven by which any child would be overwhelmed. The keys were handed over on Len and Barbara’s 35th wedding anniversary, which the couple found particularly moving. Most of the facilities of the house have been donated and many local businesses, hoteliers, nightclub owners, cafe proprietors, shopkeepers and well meaning individuals provide help wherever possible, including raising much-needed cash which helps with the ongoing running costs of the house.
The house consists of four family apartments all with themed rooms for absolute escapism. Themes include the Disney Suite, Beach's Suite, TeddiesWorld and the Kentown Wizard Suite. All the guests are invited to enjoy the decor of the communal rooms, including a ‘must-see-to-believe’ circus room complete with a steam train encircling the ceiling, bursting at the seams with fantastic teddies, soft toys and murals. Many toys have been supplied by public donation and specialist retail outlets such as the Disney Stores.
As well as each family having their own ‘apartment’, there is a car park and the garden is surrounded by palm trees and full size illumination displays, donated by Blackpool Illumination Department.
Volunteers from The Prince's Trust took up the challenge of designing and constructing the patio area, and there are even some huge flowers donated by the Illuminations Department.