Boy killed by polar bear leaves legacy for patients

An artist's impression of the garden

An artist's impression of the garden

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THE founder of the Horatio’s Garden project has unveiled plans to build Scotland’s first outdoor space for spinal injury patients in memory of a teenager killed in a polar bear attack.

Named after former Eton pupil Horatio Chapple, who was just 17 when he was killed during an expedition in Svalbard, Norway, the project is seeking to construct a garden for every spinal injury unit in the UK - beginning at the National Spinal Injury Centre in Glasgow.

Horatio's Garden Scotland, the courtyard as it is today before development

Horatio's Garden Scotland, the courtyard as it is today before development

Before his death, Horatio worked as a volunteer at the Spinal Injuries Unit in Salisbury, Wiltshire, where his father, David, is a spinal surgeon.

Horatio had come up with the idea of developing a garden for the patients - a sanctuary where they could find peace away from the wards - and thanks to the Horatio’s Garden Project, this opened three years ago. The final phase of fundraising is now under way to build a Scottish garden at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow, created by award-winning designer James Alexander-Sinclair.

Launching the final fundraising effort of £125,000, on Wednesday September 16, will be players from Glasgow Warriors rugby team and Horatio’s mother, Olivia, a former GP who, since her son’s death, devotes her time to the Horatio’s Garden charity.

She said: “I’m still his mother, the love is still there but it is a different relationship. You’ve got to find a way to make that relationship work, that’s what keeps you going.

Horatio suggested the garden idea to his father

Horatio suggested the garden idea to his father

“I know that in life he was going to have a profound effect on a lot of people, this way he can still do that. His life has a purpose beyond the people who knew him.”

She added: “Patients spend a long time in hospital following a spinal injury, around five months on average in Scotland. This can be a very difficult time.

“We need your help to bring this extraordinary project to life. It will transform the view for patients from the wards. There will be a therapy garden with a greenhouse for patients to grow vegetables and plants and a play area for patients’ children.”

Significant funds have come from a substantial number of small donations with £275,000 raised out of the estimated £400,000 required. One high-profile supporter of the garden project is West End impresario Sir Cameron Mackintosh, who said: “Horatio’s Garden is an inspiring yet simple idea of how to transform loss into gain by using nature to heal the body and soul in a beautiful haven of peace and tranquillity – what could be a better legacy for a life sadly cut short than to be the catalyst for so many others to benefit indefinitely?”

Horatio died while on an adventure holiday to Svalbard with the British Schools Exploring Society in August 2011. He was killed by the bear as he emerged from his tent. Last year a coroner ruled that failures by the expedition company did not cause the death of the teenager.

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