An appeal has been launched to buy a caravan that will give seriously ill children and their families a holiday. Tricia Risbridger tells Joanna Davis more.

A GRANDMOTHER is asking people to help make a holiday possible for a gutsy little girl with a life limiting condition.

Tricia Risbridger has started a campaign to raise money for a fully adapted caravan at a Dorset holiday park to be used by children like her granddaughter Esmai Roberts and their families.

Tricia needs to raise £50,000 for a three bedroom fully adapted caravan at a local holiday park which, in partnership with charity the Dorset Children's Foundation, will offer holidays free of charge to families of children with complex needs.

It will enable youngsters to be close to where they receive medical care in case they need to go to hospital during the holiday, a regular occurrence for children like Esmai.

Esmai, 2, who lives with Tricia and her grandad David in Canford Heath, Poole, has severe brain damage, cerebral palsy, and uncontrolled serious epilepsy. She is nil by mouth and peg fed and has a permanent line to her heart to administer life-saving medication.

But Esmai is a fighter who is 'made of steel', Tricia said.

"She's resilient. She's just the sweetest little girl. She goes through hell and back, she's remarkable really. I'm in absolute awe of her. I think the way in which children with complex needs handle things is not always appreciated. A lot of people see a child in a wheelchair and think 'that's sad' but the real story is that these children are just amazing.

"We want to include Esmai in everything we do but we're not able to and we want to be able to do that and offer it for other people too. We think if we get a special caravan it would be used about 40 weeks a year, that's 40 holidays for families."

Benefitting from use of the caravan would be families who deserve a break, Tricia said, and wouldn't otherwise have the chance of a holiday.

Life has been a struggle since she and her husband David took over guardianship of Esmai, Tricia frankly admits.

Esmai lives with her grandparents and their children Jessica five, David, eight and Liam, 10.

Tricia said: "There was a lot to take on and the last year has been absolutely hideous. Sometimes we don't even sleep. In the last seven nights Esmai has been up for four of them. Coffee helps. There are a lot of appointments. It's Wednesday and this week we've had four already. She can be easily unsettled and it's a lot 24/7, more than people imagine.

"At the start I didn't know any other parents who were in the same boat. I met lots of other families with children like Esmai. I got speaking to other people and I realised life is the same for all of us. One thing that's apparent is we all have the same struggles, although we sometimes feel important, we feel like we are always waiting because the children have life limiting conditions.

"I know one lady who's got a little boy in a chair and they haven't been away for seven years. As they get larger their equipment becomes bigger and their needs become greater.

"When I spoke to another family about trying to get a caravan, the mum was in tears and said this was a lovely idea. She has a little girl who's three and they can't go away together.

"I consider ourselves lucky because my husband works and we get an allowance but a lot of these parents don't have that, they're having to survive on universal credit.They'd never have the opportunity to go on holiday."

Esmai has many hospital admissions which makes going away very tricky, Tricia said. Esmai needs to be near her local medical team and near the Southampton PICU where she's had four admissions since the summer.

"I've had this idea for a few months," Tricia said. "Esmai is life limited and when she has an epileptic fit it could be all over. You don't know how long she will be on this planet.

"I want to give families in Dorset in the same position as us the chance to go to a specially adapted caravan so they can just turn up there and have everything they need. We want them to be able to go and have a week's break.

"We wanted to raise money for something tangible and long-term that's going to benefit lots of children."

Trish says she plans to arrange a food shop for families who holiday in the caravan and arrange for them to have entertainment passes.

"We think it's ideal to have something local so that of their child gets ill one parent can go to the hospital and the other can stay and look after the other children."

If the money can be raised for the caravan, Rockley Park in Poole is one of the options being considered, Tricia said.

The caravan would be specially adapted and would contain special equipment such as oxygen. Offering holidays to families with children with complex needs would also give siblings the chance to have a break too.

"It means they can have fun and go to the kids' club," Tricia said. "If the disabled child has a seizure Poole Hospital is just 10 minutes away and the other kids can carry on with the holiday."

With the support of the Dorset Children's Foundation, Tricia and David are trying to come up with different ways of raising the money. They have been busy contacting local businesses to get prizes for a raffle which will raise money for the caravan.

"We know it's a mammoth task but we're prepared to work hard and every penny counts, if it takes us a year or two so be it," Tricia said.

*Any donation to Esmai's Holiday Haven appeal, large or small, will be welcomed at

PATSY Hallmey, co-founder of the Dorset Children's Foundation, said the charity is honoured to support the campaign for a special caravan.

"We are honoured to support Esmai’s Holiday Haven as we have seen first hand how families with disabled children struggle to even leave the house let alone have a break. This is going to mean the world to the families we support and will be our main fundraising campaign this year. We are asking the whole community to come together to make Esmai’s dream a reality, from a cake sale to Corporate sponsorship every single penny raised will go toward this wonderful home. Anyone who would like to help can contact