Our history

Winston’s Wish was set up in 1992 to meet the needs of bereaved children, young people and their families. Since then, we have helped many thousands of children begin to live with their loss.


The idea took root when clinical psychologist, Julie Stokes, visited the USA and Canada on a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship. Inspired by the services she saw there, she returned to the UK and set up Winston’s Wish.

‘Churchill’ quickly metamorphosed into ‘Winston’ – a bear – who became our mascot. We say it is Winston’s ‘wish’ that every bereaved child should receive the help they need to cope with the death of someone important in their lives.

We were privileged to part in the Churchill 2015 commemorations to celebrate the life and legacy of Sir Winston Churchill.  The Havengore retraced events of 50 years ago, when she carried the coffin of Sir Winston Churchill on his last journey by water from Tower Pier to Festival Pier, watched by a TV audience of 350 million – and we were on board.

The key milestones of Winston’s Wish:

  • 1992

    Winston’s Wish founded to meet the needs of bereaved children in Gloucestershire

  • 1993

    First residential weekend held

  • 1994

    Launch of the service to schools

  • 1995

    BT/ChildLine Award for providing ‘outstanding services to children’

  • 1999

    Guardian Jerwood Award for community achievement

  • 2000

    Royal Television Society Award for the BBC Everyman documentary ‘Goodbye, God Bless’ – a collaboration between the BBC and Winston’s Wish.
    Worked with Macmillan Cancer Support on a children’s book. Funding from the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Fund for the development of an interactive website aimed at 12-18 year olds

  • 2001

    Plain English Campaign award for our booklets about serious illness and suicide

  • 2003

    Service recognised by Her Majesty The Queen as ‘pioneering’, making ‘a significant contribution to the life of the nation’

  • 2005

    National service launched for children affected by homicide or suicide

  • 2006

    Opened our West Sussex office

  • 2007

    Channel 4 series ‘The Mummy Diaries’ and ‘Why Did Dad Choose to Die’ aired on national television

  • 2010

    National service launched supporting bereaved children of military families thanks to funding from Help for Heroes

  • 2012

    Celebrated our 20th Anniversary year.
    Funding awarded by Big Lottery Fund for a new service targeted at bereaved teenagers at risk of offending

  • 2013

    Launch of new teenagers bereavement service, ‘SWITCH’.
    Published two new books to support those bereaved by military service and those living with teenage bereavement.

  • 2014

    Opened our North West hub, providing support services in the Wigan and Greater Manchester area.
    Won a Plain English Campaign ‘Standard Bearers’ award for our military publication ‘The family has been informed’.

  • 2015

    Honoured at prestigious Children and Young People Now awards with highly commended in the charity category.
    We currently support 40,000 bereaved children and young people per year.