A HOSPICE that cares for terminally-ill children from York and North Yorkshire will screen a series of ground-breaking TV adverts to try to plug a £3.6 million funding shortfall.

Martin House, at Boston Spa, near Tadcaster, launched the advert - being screened on ITV - after donations dipped following a series of high-profile international disaster appeals.

The hospice cares for more than 300 children and young people with life-limiting conditions, and offers support to an extra 100 bereaved families, but it receives only six per cent of its funding from the Government.

Fundraising manager Stuart Andrew said: "We have found this year harder than other years for the simple reason that people have quite rightly given to disaster appeals like the tsunami and the Pakistan earthquake.

"It is making it harder for us to get money to raise cash for the hospice. We have had to look at other avenues to raise our profile, and make people aware that Martin House is actually Yorkshire's only children's hospice.

"We rely very heavily on voluntary donations, and we need the public to support us so that we can offer these vital services."

The TV appeal, which is thought to be the first of its kind for a children's hospice, features a father looking for his lost child in a shopping centre, only for the viewers to realise that his daughter has died.

The campaign received a boost this month when a Gunpowder Plotters Ball, arranged by the St Peter's School Foundation to mark the 400th anniversary of Guy Fawkes's plot, raised £15,000 for the hospice.

The cash was raised through sponsorship, a charity auction and other fundraising activities on the evening to mark the plot by the school's most infamous old boy.

Mr Andrew said: "We were astounded by the figure that they have raised. Some 900 people attended the event, which is just incredible.

"My hat goes off to the organisers there. To raise that amount of money is absolutely staggering and we are so grateful that they have thought of us. We rely on that kind of generosity."

Buff Reid, chairman of the school's ball committee, said: "We are thrilled to have raised such a large sum of money for such a worthwhile cause."

To make a donation or to support fundraising efforts for Martin House, email appeal@martinhouse.org.uk or phone 01937 844569.

Updated: 10:28 Friday, November 25, 2005