'TAKING the fear out of dying' is at the heart of a new forward-thinking project St Rocco's have launched.

Over the next four weeks youngsters from St Lewis Primary School in Croft will be paired with patients at the hospice to help reassure year six pupils that death is normal and highlight the role that hospices play in end of life care.

It is hoped Roc ON! will help the hospice break boundaries by addressing issues that are often taboo – especially when it comes to children.

Jan Temeros, school project leader, first launched the initiative in the New Forest to address myths and fears around dying and focussing on 'living well' instead.

She added: "Parents try to protect their child from grief but it surrounds them all the time.

"We try and make it normal to feel sad or angry and it allows them to talk openly about issues so that they become every day.

"The feedback from patients has been great too as it's helped them talk to their own children or grandchildren, reduces their fear or anxiety about visiting the hospice and it's the opportunity for them to give something back and feel useful."

The project will see youngsters and patients work on activities including arts and crafts once a week to get them talking about their lives and wishes before a party on the final day.

John Garratt, who lives off Manchester Road, is one of the 12 patients involved in the scheme and said he is delighted to take part after being given 12 months to live with lung cancer in August 2013.

The granddad-of-four added: "When I first got my diagnosis, like most people, the thought of going into a hospice didn't appeal.

"Eventually I was encouraged to give it a try and St Rocco's changed my life virtually on that one day being able to speak to people with similar illnesses.

"A conversation I had really particularly stuck with me though when I was told everyone in the room had lived beyond their diagnosis.

"That simple sentence made me look at life completely differently and now I've gone 20 months and still feel as good now as I did after the first lot of treatment.

"I knew how difficult it was telling my grandchildren when they could see their granddad had started to change so I was happy to help in any way I can."

Head teacher Michael Boland said the school was happy to be involved with the pioneering project after taking youngsters to sing at the hospice before Christmas.

He added: "We want children to grow up and make a difference in the world and you don't get that unless you take risks like this."

The project will be working with other schools in the town throughout 2015 and is part of the Warrington Guardian charity of the year's plans to reach out into the community during their 30th anniversary year and beyond.