He’s a Knockout! Spotlight on Mark James, a hospice hero, who often leaps over foam-sprayed inflatable obstacles to raise funds for Wirral Hospice St John’s #hospicehero #supporters #itsaknockout #patientcare #support #fun #fundraising

Get ready for Sunday 21st July at New Brighton Dips where Wirral Hospice St John’s will be holding our 4th Annual ‘It’s a Knockout’ extravaganza.

Mark James 5Teams of 6-10 people will compete with each other over a range of inflatable obstacles, sometimes dry but more often sprayed with foamy bubbles, which sees the participants slip-sliding all over the place as they try to win points for their team. (On the left of this picture is Mark James, in action at last year’s event. More about him to follow).

It’s a fantastic, fun filled, frenzy of foam-filled fabulousness, in the image of the famous TV show, It’s a Knockout, which ran from the 1960’s through to the ‘80’s. It’s massive fun for everyone involved and, for all those watching too.

Fun is exactly the right word, because the competitors and their supporting friends, family and, in fact, hundreds of people from the whole Wirral come back year after year to join in, and roll around with laughter from the sidelines at, all the pandemonium. This mayhem is complemented by pulsating upbeat music which is enough to get everyone moving as the chaos unfolds.

The competition is the central attraction of the day, but everyone can take part in the fun day which surrounds the event. There’s loads for the family to do, fairground rides, food stalls, ice-cream, face painting and the kids’ favourite, an inflatable assault course.

So, it’s a brilliant day for everyone and a really important fundraising event for Wirral Hospice St John’s. Many people recognise this and are delighted to sponsor their friends and family to take part. Many of the participants inspire others to get involved because it is their way of making their contribution and saying a personal ‘thank you’ to the hospice.

Mark James & coOne such person is Mark James (the furthest man on the left, in blue trainers, as you look at this picture). His Mum, Maureen (known fondly as ‘Mo’), was receiving our specialist care and support when she passed away at the hospice in 2010 and he’s been raising funds for us every year since.

Mark recalls the hospice team caring so attentively for his Mum, taking away any stress and pain that her illness had brought on. He heaps praise on the doctors and nurses whom he describes as, “simply brilliant. Wirral Hospice St John’s made that time in our families lives as nice as it possibly could be. We’ll be eternally grateful.”

Mark is a marketing manager for a software company in his day job. He’s also, it’s fair to say, driven by keeping himself fit and encouraging others, through his fitness business, Better Body Fitness (BBF), to also look after themselves. He’s also encouraged 3 teams, of 10 people each, to contend in the 2019, It’s a Knockout. One of which he’ll lead himself!

BBF brings together people of all shapes, sizes, ages and ability on three evenings a week to take part in fun exercises and circuit training, to get their hearts pumping. I joined him on one such evening at The Grosvenor Assembly Rooms in Wallasey,  to get a flavour of their challenges and, importantly to say Thank You to the groups for their support for the hospice (extended also to others who would have been around on different evenings).

It really is a mix of people ranging from people who are fitness fanatics to people who just want to be active, enjoy themselves and lose a few pounds. Everybody does the same exercises together, but at a pace, repetition and level which suits their current capabilities. They have a gentle motivator in Mark, although he can transmit a ‘bootcamp’ vibe for those who need a stronger challenge! 

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They’re a happy group. Lots of laughs are had during the 45 minute session. First, there’s a nice, easy, warm-up of stretches and light walking or jogging to get the circulation going and then the volume on the background music is turned up. It’s Pump up the Jam, and OFF WE GO.

Squat thrusts, star jumps, sit ups, press ups, running, jogging and walking, I can see that the gents and ladies from this group are going to be able to strive for a win in It’s a Knockout. (But there’s no foam or obstacles in the Gym so that might well level the playing field on the day!)

At the end of the session there’s a nice warm-down and the members are all aglow. I can tell they’re already looking forward to their next workout.

After the session I ask Mark about some of his other fundraising for the hospice. I know that through various events since 2010, including It’s a Knockout, he has already raised over £6,000 for the hospice. Various feats of endurance and iron man events have contributed to this, but perhaps the one he considers the toughest is The Rat Race (Mark pictured here at the end of the small matter of a 200 daunting obstacles over a 20 mile course!)

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I asked Mark one final question, how, with a busy day job, his fitness business and a young family (Dylan, 7, and Mollie, 4), how does he pile it all in?

“I’ve got a very, very patient wife, Gemma, she’s a nurse.” Ha, now it becomes clear!

Gemma actually returned to nursing in 2018 after maternity leave and actually spent time here at Wirral Hospice St John’s in her ‘refresher’ phase. She has seen life as a family member and now, from the inside, as a returning nurse. She was really inspired by the care and support delivered at the hospice which, she told Mark, had added greatly to her all around experience.

Mark’s favourite quote and the maxim by which he lives, and which he also used as the sign-off of a speech he made earlier this year at a 400 person conference called ‘Ignite your Inner Potential’,  is from Will Smith:

“If you’re not making someone else’s life better then you’re wasting your time. Your life will become better by making other lives better.”

What more can we say? Just, THANK YOU very, very much to Mark, and Gemma, all their family and friends, and, of course, all the members from BBF. We’re looking forward to you knocking us all out in It’s a Knockout, 2019!

Author: Billy Howard

(It’s a knockout is on Sunday 21st July at New Brighton Dips. If you’d like to enter a team of 6-10 people at £10 per person call Teresa, Jamie-Leigh or Sarah on 0151 343 0778. We also ask individual teams if they can also raise a minimum of £750 between them, through sponsorship, we would be extremely grateful).

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Spotlight On Marianne Sunter, a former chemistry teacher who ‘reacts’ brilliantly when we need her precious time. #wirralhospice #volunteer #wirral #family #hospice #teaching #hospicehero

Marianne 1The phrase, ‘you can take that to the bank’, is confirmation that a valuable item, or a piece of information, is safe and secure. You can rely on it!

Wirral Hospice St John’s has a bank of volunteers who make themselves available, almost at the drop of a hat, to cover holidays and the ill health of other volunteers. They are, by definition, dependable people. Marianne Sunter is one such valiant volunteer.

She gives us her valuable time on main reception when called upon. Her ability to organise and prioritise, not surprising for a former deputy head teacher, is clear. The fact that she’s also very friendly and welcoming brings a mix of skills that are perfect for directing people to our patients and staff at Wirral Hospice St John’s.Marianne 2

Marianne was born and brought up in Wirral. She attended St Laurence’s Primary School in Birkenhead (merged into St Werburgh’s in 2010)  and then attained the qualifications which took her to the Holt Hill Convent school, the sister school of Upton Hall School FCJ (where Marianne actually spent the first five years of her teaching career).

Loving learning and challenging herself at school, she achieved her Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award  and was further inspired to choose a career in teaching after gaining her degree in Chemistry at the University of Liverpool.

In all, she spent 38 years in teaching. Her career flourished at Box Hill School in Surrey where she was for 33 years, rising to become its deputy head teacher for the latter 15 of them. Not surprisingly, “I tend to throw myself into every challenge”, Marianne also ran the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme at Box Hill.

In her role, she’s been in private audience with Prince Philip himself and has also met Princes Andrew and Edward, and also Princess Anne. She is happy to advocate and uphold the values of the school she spent so long at, international understanding, democracy, a care for the world around us, a sense of adventure, and the qualities of leadership and service. 

In 1992 Marianne met the love of her life, and future husband, Jim. Jim had already enjoyed a career working in air freight which had taken him around the world. He was, literally, a ‘high-flying’ executive!

At the time, and still maybe, it was a natural move to retire from a fast moving and successful career in one industry to takeover the management of a country pub and hotel. The Running Horses, on London Road in Surrey, is just such a place! It’s also right over the road from Box Hill School and fate brought Jim and Marianne together.

It’s fair to say that the pub wasn’t all Jim had envisaged and just two years later he was working at Box Hill, initially as a groundsman but, like Marianne, was happy to go above and beyond. (Here they are pictured together). In his 16 years at Box Hill he grew their thousands of bedding plants every year, managed several allotments, looked after all the school buses and coordinated the transport for all outside activities. He also found time to make and paint scenery for school plays and run the bars for parents’ events.Marianne and Jim

Jim developed Kidney problems at around sixty two years of age. From 2011 he was receiving dialysis at home under the care of their local NHS (and his personal ‘nurse’, Marianne). By 2015, Jim’s kidneys were failing and he was finally admitted to the Renal Unit at St Helier Hospital in Carshalton. The decision was taken to stop his dialysis and to live out his days as comfortably and happy as possible.

It was Jim’s palliative care consultant, Dr Swift, “Swift by name, swift by nature” Marianne says, who, at the right time, arranged for the transfer to St Catherine’s Hospice in Sussex.

Marianne remembers, “From the moment he arrived at the hospice he was quickly free from pain and felt very peaceful. I was struck by how attentive the hospice staff and volunteers were. Jim’s full name was William James Sunter and at hospital people would refer to him as William. From the moment we arrived, the staff  at St Catherine’s Hospice knew him, like he was known by everyone, as Jim! Just like at Wirral Hospice St John’s, people were friendly, empathetic, compassionate but, somehow, just ‘normal’, fun even… at the right time! Human, I suppose.”

Marianne and stepdaughter, Joanne, were holding hands with Jim when he died on 15th May, 2015.

Marianne had retired to be with Jim and has now re-settled in Wirral. She is a massive advocate of hospice care and takes a keen interest reading the history of the hospice movement and its ethos. She has great admiration for the work of Dame Cicely Saunders in establishing hospice care and shows me an excerpt from an account of her life (by Jennifer Worth of ‘Call the Midwife’ fame) and matches it to her own experience;

The primary objective of a hospice is to show that death does not need to be a time of suffering but a time to achieve fulfilment. It encompasses the quiet unsung lives of ordinary people. People who have lived simply in a small circle, doing their best and achieving great things, in small ways. My husband (Jim) was such a person. His life was not spectacular but he was a good man and one of the wisest people I have known. He died quietly and peacefully as he had lived with his daughter and I on either side holding his hands. This is life coming full circle.

Both Jim and Marianne were held in such high esteem at Box Hill (see page 08 at this link by clicking here, that there is now an annual award in their name and Jim’s memory, ‘The Sunter Award.’ This goes to the student who has gone above and beyond the normal course of study every year. (Marianne is pictured here presenting the first award to a young man, Josh Barnett, who she says is always a great ambassador for the school).Marianne 3

Nowadays Marianne is in close touch with stepdaughter Joanne, married to Mark, with granddaughters Georgina 21 and Phoebe 16. They experienced their own sadness in losing a little boy Owen after 5 days who is still remembered by all the family. There’s also stepson, Mike, married to Emma with five-year-old, Leo.

Marianne has two brothers. Eldest, Gerry, who lives in Prenton, is married to Barbara. Their son, Matthew has Marianne’s great-niece, Alice and great nephew, Sam. Gerry and Barbara’s daughter, Claire, lives in Wirral with husband Dave and have more great-nephews for Marianne, Adam 10 and Luke 6.

Her other brother Philip, married to Helen, lives in New Zealand and their daughter Alexandra is married and lives in Missouri.

She also has an Aunt, Catherine known as Carrie, who will receive a telegram from The Queen for her 100th birthday in July this year.

As well as making her contribution to the hospice, Marianne adds her considerable experience in education as the chair of governors of St Oswald’s Primary School in Mollington, Chester.

To relax, Marianne is part of a quiz team called The Soapsuds (they’re based at Port Sunlight’s Lever Club). They are in Division One of the Wirral Quiz League and regularly compete in cup matches organised by the larger Merseyside Quiz Leagues.

What I had to find out from somebody else (not mentioning anyone, but Carole Snow is our volunteer services manager!) is that Marianne also took part in the ITV quiz show, The Chase, hosted by Bradley Walsh. For aficionados, she and another lady, Mia, reached the last two to face The Vixen in the final chase. See the action on You Tube by clicking here.

So, with piles of energy, commitment, knowledge and enthusiasm we’re looking forward to seeing Marianne here at the hospice for a lot of years ahead. In fact, I think we can safely say, where Marianne is concerned, you can take that to the bank!

Author: Billy Howard

Tribute to Mr Richard Goss, remembering a thoroughly charming man. #wirralhospice #wellbeing #wirral #hospicehero #family #counselling #physiotherapy #art #gardening #therapy #aromatherapy #musictherapy

Richard Goss (3)Mr Richard Goss had a calm, thoughtful aura about him. When you first met him he’d greet you with a polite, “How do you do”. It’s a great way of opening up a conversation and, let me tell you, Richard was an interesting man to spend time with.

I first met him at Wirral Hospice St John’s Wellbeing Centre where he joined us having undergone successful surgery on a brain tumour in January 2018. The tumour was one of the secondary conditions of Richard’s diagnosed lung cancer.

He was candid about his first reaction to being referred to us – like many patients he was a little anxious and was going to refuse. After a heart-to-heart with his wife, Angela, they decided that there would be no harm in Richard attending an initial session, “let’s see how it goes”.

They were really happy that they did. After attending for one day a week, for 8 weeks, Angela says “Wirral Hospice St John’s gave Richard back his zest for life.”

Patients referred to the Wellbeing Centre, are given information, advice and guidance for living well in their everyday lives. Following an initial chat with our trained staff, and according to their needs, patients may enter into aromatherapy, physiotherapy or occupational therapy as well as wellbeing sessions such as medicine management or dealing with fatigue.

We facilitate a wide range of group activities including arts, crafts, gardening and, (particularly liked around the wider hospice) baking. Sometimes, people will choose just to have a quiet chat with fellow patients, staff or our fantastic volunteers. They may want to sit in their own space for a while listening to a favourite piece of music.

I first joined Richard, one day in the Wellbeing Centre, while he was taking part in an art session with our creative therapies co-ordinator, Penny Lee, to hear his ideas for helping Wirral Hospice St John’s and to find out some more about his life.

Richard was involved in the Film, TV and entertainment business for over 40 years. During his time with us he was working on a ‘film’ storyboard with the intention of aiding future patients to feel comfortable when they are referred here. It’s a fantastic idea and one we’re looking to bring to fruition later this year.

I wanted to know more about Richard’s life and we talked at length.

By the early 1970’s he was a corporate lawyer working with the famous human rights lawyer Sir John Foster  in London. Sir John sent him on assignment to work on some of the contractual elements of a film being produced by legendary Hollywood film director, George Cukor (of 1964’s My Fair Lady fame), and Richard never looked back.

The film, Love among the Ruins, starred the movie legends, Katharine Hepburn and Laurence Olivier. From thereafter Richard began to develop his creative instincts and deal with people who, in showbiz circles, are referred to as ‘the talent.’ His membership of the Royal Academy of Music where he’d been a chorister (Richard pictured here in his early teens) had maybe triggered his desire to work in the creative industries.Richard Goss 2 (3)

He began to manage some promising acts and in 1975 he worked on a spoof song about the American ‘cop’ shows that were big at the time (our older readers will remember Kojak, McCloud, Ironside, Columbo, Cannon and Hawaii Five-O). The song was called ‘King of the Cops’ sung by a British TV impressionist called Billy Howard.

King of the Cops reached number 6 in the UK singles pop charts on 18th January 1976. (It was just the small matter of Queen with Bohemian Rhapsody, and Abba with Mamma Mia fending off other talented artists at the time!

Richard’s wife, Angela, definitely has the X Factor. She was working with the Brian Rogers Connection dance group – famous as the regular troupe on Ted Rogers’ 3-2-1 – when she met Richard on the set of Summertime Special in the 1980’s.

Richard particularly liked it that Angela had been able to spend some time to herself while he was attending the Wellbeing Centre. After his eight week referral he and Angela spent time at our Evergreen Group meetings. A group for patients and their partners (or other carers) to share stories and experiences.

Richard gave a presentation to the group about his and Angela’s visit, in 2014, to Guangxi in China. It was a captivating insight into a part of the world, with it’s major conurbation, Liuzhou, being developed into a ground-breaking Forest City.

All of our staff and volunteers, alongside our other patients and their families, loved hearing Richard’s many life stories.

A thoroughly charming man. Rest in Peace, Richard.

On Wednesday evening of 24th April a Variety Night at Poulton Vics Social Club in Wallasey has been put together in tribute to Richard. Former World boxing champion, John H Stracey, enjoying a second career as a sensational crooner, is headlining a full show with other local artists. 

It’s £12.50 pp – with buffet included – and starts at 7.30pm all proceeds will go to support Wirral Hospice St John’s in providing our specialist clinical and nursing care and other patient and family support services.

Three of our patients talk about what our Hospice means to them and their loved ones #familiesmatter #hospicecare

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What does the word ‘Hospice’ mean to you?

If you asked that question to the patients at Wirral Hospice St John’s, you’d probably be surprised at the answer.  Largely speaking, they are confident and optimistic for the future, sure in the knowledge that, although seriously ill, they are living their lives as fully and as comfortably as possible. Hospice means a safe haven, where they are helped to live how they want as well as they can.

Diagnosis of a serious incurable condition comes as a shock to most people. They often envisage a short and bleak future. The Hospice comes in at this point and, in addition to giving care and helping people to stabilise their conditions, it gives them confidence for the future.

John, is living with cancer, he has been coming to Wirral Hospice for 18 months, “When I was diagnosed, life became absolutely full. Doctors, nurses, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy: something was going on all the time. Then, at the finish, I felt cast adrift – busy every day of the week, and then nothing. Then the Hospice came into my life, and offered me a lifeline. It was a regular thing that I could rely on.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Will to face fear in memory of mum #hospicehero

Will Rowlands will face one of his biggest fears on 20th June for a charity that is very close to the hearts of his family. will_rowlands_wirralhospice_skydivephoto - Copy

After his mum, Diane was diagnosed with Cancer in 2013, Will wanted to leave a legacy in her name and so chose to embark on a fundraising adventure that will see him fall 10,000 feet from a plane at 120mph in her memory.

“My fundraising has been fantastic! I managed to hit my target a few weeks ago by sharing my Just Giving page on Facebook. The support I have received is incredible. My partner Lucinda has been sharing my challenge with her friends and colleagues – she’s more excited for me to fall out of the plane than I am!”

Sponsored charity skydives are a fantastic way for supporters to embrace a challenge and raise money for a good cause. The experience can never be forgotten and is one that makes a huge difference to charity.

Fundraising Co-ordinator Kerry Threadgill reflects on the fantastic progress Will has made since he initially signed up for the challenge. “We are thrilled with the incredible amount Will has raised for the Hospice so far! Even though he is currently going through a very sad time, he has been 100% dedicated to raising as much as he can in support of our good work. By facing his fear, he has raised £1,190.41 for Wirral Hospice, which is just amazing!”

“I’m really looking forward to the day – having been signed up for so long now, I’m just itching to get on that plane and get going! Being able to give something back to the incredible people at Wirral Hospice is just a small way for me, my family and my mum to say thank you for the care and support Wirral Hospice give to those who need it most”.

To find out more about skydiving for Wirral Hospice, email kerryt@wirralhospice.org

Visit Will’s Just Giving page to see his progress!

http://www.justgiving.com/William-Rowlands2   

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