EastEnders’ Anita Dobson returns to real East End for sick kids’ charity

PUBLISHED: 13:24 07 May 2013 | UPDATED: 13:24 07 May 2013

Anita Dobson at Stevenson House expansion in 2010

Anita Dobson at Stevenson House expansion in 2010

Sick Chilren's Trust

Former EastEnders TV pub landlady Angie Watts is returning to the real East End of London tomorrow.

Little Ronnie Iveson at birthLittle Ronnie Iveson at birth

Actress Anita Dobson is helping a sick kids’ charity’s birthday bash to celebrate the 10th anniversary of its hostel where parents can stay to be close to their children having operations at the Royal London Hospital.

Whitechapel’s Stevenson House has managed to entice Anita, who played the Old Vic pub landlady in the TV soap, to make a celebrity reappearance at lunchtime—where the BBC had failed.

Dobson appeared with actor Leslie Grantham playing the pub guv’nor, her adulterous husband ‘Dirty Den,’ until she quit the show in 1988.

BBC bosses failed to persuade her to return to the series several times since.

Little Ronnie Iveson now getting betterLittle Ronnie Iveson now getting better

But she has decided to return to the Sick Children’s Trust that she visited three years ago when it opened a new wing at Stevenson House—for tomorrow’s 10th birthday celebrations of the centre opening.

“It’s hearing stories from these families that really move me,” she said. “I realise what an important role the charity has played in people’s lives over the years.”

The hostel caters for 450 families every year, many from out of London who would otherwise never be able to stay near their children.

One family who have benefited are the Ivesons from Southend, whose son Ronnie was born two months premature in March, 2011, and spent the first part of his life at the hospital.

Ruby LambertRuby Lambert

His mum Kelly said: “It was such a relief to have somewhere to stay during Ronnie’s time in hospital.

“I don’t know how we would have stayed sane otherwise—the thought of driving back and forth to Southend every day would have been too much.”

Ronnie is getting stronger by the day, but still needs hospital appointments which sometime mean being admitted—the Stevenson’s at least have somewhere to stay to be near him.

Another family staying at Stevenson House were the parents of Ruby Lambert from Bethnal Green who has a rare heart condition and had a heart attack at school—it was only her teacher giving emergency resuscitation that saved her life.

Ruby has severe brain injury and needs a year of intensive treatment at a specialist centre in America.

Getting her ready for the arduous journey across the Atlantic has been a trying time for her mum Catherine Newell and schoolteacher dad Simon Lambert.

But Stevenson House gives them a ‘home from home’ to be minutes away from Ruby when she needs them most.

The centre has been extended to 16 family bedrooms, 10 single bathrooms, two kitchens, two communal dining areas, two shared living rooms, a well-stocked playroom and full laundry facilities.

House manager Joan Coker said: “The relief on parents’ faces when they hear they have a place to lay their head, get clean and cook some food which is only minutes away from their child’s bedside never fails to move me.”

The centre opened in 2003 as a ‘home from home’ for parents to be close to their children undergoing treatment at the Royal London and has helped 3,000 families across Britain to stay close to the youngsters in their time of need.

But cost of staffing and maintaining Stevenson House is almost £100,000 a year. The charity depends on public donations—and being in the spotlight with TV celebrities like TV EastEnders’ Anita Dobson.

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