Over the years, many thousands have undertaken a whole host of wonderful (sometimes weird!) activities and events. They’ve completed charity walks, run marathons, endured triathlons, sat in baths of beans, swum for miles, shorn their locks, climbed mountains, jumped out of aeroplanes and much, much more. The funds they raise help us to continue to provide our specialist care services, free of charge, for the people of Wirral.
People embark on these pursuits for all sorts of reasons. It might be that they witness the services we provide for their family members or friends, at first hand. They may know people who are staff and volunteers here or, perhaps they read about the essential services we provide on information leaflets, or on social media, and they just want to help.
Whatever the reason, we really appreciate them – ONE AND ALL!
We’re always delighted to see young people taking part for us, sometimes joining their families on walks and a host of other activities.
So, when 11 year old Owen told his mum that he wanted to abseil down a tall building to raise money for the hospice, we were fascinated to find out, why? We wanted to know what motivates a young person to choose to raise money for our charity. Like any good story, a series of life events and circumstances combined to bring young Owen to his inspiring decision.
Owen was born in March 2007. His mum, Kate, had been pregnant at the same time as her good friend and neighbour, Karen. By happy coincidence they spent time on the maternity ward together, cementing their friendship. Karen’s little girl, Sadie, was born two days before Owen.
Karen and Kate remained strong friends in the following years and young Owen and Sadie, living close by in the same road, were like brother and sister. The birth of Owen’s brother Archie, two years later, added to this ‘extended family’ dynamic.
Life went on with its everyday joys and, with the children growing up and playing well together, all was well. That is, until four years later, Sadie’s mum Karen was diagnosed with lung cancer. Huge challenges lay ahead.
Intensive specialised treatment at Clatterbridge followed, enabling periods of relief, remission and respite. The love and support of her many friends, most significantly Kate’s family at that time, enabled Karen to live as full a life as possible with Sadie.
Karen was supported here at Wirral Hospice St John’s. She experienced life affirming activities within our Wellbeing Centre (then known as Day Therapy). She was later admitted to our inpatients ward, once her condition began causing the kind of pain and discomfort our specialist treatment is designed to stabilise.
In August 2016, after five years of living with her illness, Karen died.
In the times when her mum was ill, young Sadie had spent many hours with mum’s friend Kate, her partner Derek and sons Owen and Archie. As life continued, as it has to, Sadie’s Auntie Veronica (Ronnie) took on guardianship and now Sadie is settled with her family.
Karen’s friend Kate works here at the hospice as one of our lottery administrators. At the time of Karen’s illness, she was volunteering here working with the education team. When the chance of a job in the lottery team came up she applied successfully and has been here ever since. She loves her role at the hospice and, inevitably, the work of the hospice features in many family discussions. Young Owen and Archie know of the activities people undertake to raise funds for us.
Owen came to the hospice one day during the school holidays with his mum (already a young ‘volunteer’ his mum had him stuffing some envelopes for the lottery team!). It was just after his school trip to The Conway Outdoor Arts and Education Centre in Anglesey (you know the kind of place: character-forming, outdoors, sailing, hiking and, particularly captivating for Owen, abseiling).
If you’ve seen our ‘Take on a Challenge’ display banner, sometimes on the roadway here, you may have noticed the silhouette on the side showing a person descending a steep precipice. On the way into the hospice Owen saw the banner and told Kate, “I can do that mum.”
With that small phrase, another ‘Hospice Hero’ was developing.
The ideal place for the task presented itself while the family were walking the Wirral Way near Moreton, Leasowe Lighthouse! A quick Google search confirmed that the lighthouse hosted regular abseiling events with qualified instructors and, even though just 11, Owen was ready to take on his first challenge for the hospice.
So, with fundraising plans in place and sponsorship forms drawn up, family, friends and neighbours rallied around to support Owen. Mum and dad encouraged their pals to dig deep. People were very happy to help raise and contribute funds for the hospice in memory of Karen.
The day arrived and alongside other people (all adults) Owen, safety equipment secured, climbed over the supporting rail and began his descent down 110 feet of lighthouse.
Five minutes later, after a couple of pauses to catch a breath and with mum Kate’s heart in her mouth, Owen completed his abseil challenge. Lots of whooping, cheering and hugging ensued.
Then it was time to count up the donations!
In this one challenge Owen had raised a fantastic £756 for the hospice. He’d also, demonstrated his support for Sadie, honoured the memory of Karen, made his mum, dad and younger brother swell with pride and, gained the respect of many more of his family, friends and neighbours.
Well done young Owen, everybody at Wirral Hospice St John’s is truly honoured by your efforts!
Author: Billy Howard