Spotlight On: Stephanie and Josh Reynolds. Mother and Son combo sign up for #muckymudder

Steph and JoshStephanie Reynolds and son, Josh, 24, are taking on their first fundraiser together in Wirral Hospice St John’s brand new Mucky Mudder event on Sunday 29th September.

Steph explains, “My sister, Trish, and her friend, Paula, take on lots of runs and other events for charity, and it was Trish who convinced us to join them on the challenge in memory of our sister, Maria.”

I went to meet Steph and Josh to see how their training was going (you don’t need to train too hard as you can go at your own pace, but they both have a personal wish to make a bit of an effort).

Maria and StephMaria (pictured here with Steph) lived with autism and learning disabilities, and when the aforementioned Trish and brother, Richie, all came along (all within 12 years), Steph took on the role of ‘sibling matriarch’.

Maria attended Wirral’s outstanding Claremount School, which is predominantly for children with special educational needs.

In April 2017 Maria was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She underwent a complex whipple procedure (also known as pancreaticoduodenemectomy) procedure later that July.

In December 2017, Maria was referred to Wirral Hospice St John’s inpatients as a means to control the pain and discomfort that her condition was causing.

MariaMaria died in January 2018.

Stephanie says, “Wirral Hospice St John’s was absolutely marvellous for Maria. The nurses were so sensitive to Maria’s particular needs.”

As well as Josh, Steph has a daughter, Gemma and grandson, Lewis, 12, and there’s a new grandchild on the way!

Steph and Josh are collecting sponsorship and also preparing for the actual Mucky Mudder day. I ask them how,

I rode my bike 33 miles on the weekend”, Josh says, almost apologetically. He describes a route taking in much of the Wirral peninsula’s coastal routes and I’m thinking, ‘don’t apologise Josh, Mucky Mudder is a different, fun, kind of test but you’re obviously well equipped to get around. I wonder if he may be ‘up’ for a longer bike ride in the future, London to Paris maybe!’

Steph uses the ladies gym at Hearts Health Club in Wallasey, and although it’s her first fundraiser, I feel confident she’s going to have a lot of laughs and is more than capable of making her way around 5k of muddy obstacles, landscapes and ponds.

“We’re committed now” she says, “and along with Josh, Trish and Paula (and over 150 other participants) we’re going to be keeping in mind exactly why we’re doing it. For the wonderful Wirral Hospice St John’s and in memory of  Maria.”

Have a Muddy good one, Steph and Josh!

Author: Billy Howard

If you’d like to take on Mucky Mudder for Wirral Hospice St John’s, there are still some places available.

For more details and to sign up go to www.wirralhospice.org/muckymudder or call Sarah on 0151-343-0778

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Spotlight on Leanne Jones and Kristy Maughan: Knocking it out of the park for It’s a Knockout, 2019 #fun #hospiceheroes #fundraising #familysupport #caring #support #thankyou

Leanne and Kristy 6        Leanne and Kristy 4

BOOOOOOMMMMM!

Leanne Jones (l) and Kristy Maughan (r) have arrived at Wirral Hospice St John’s to tell me how motivated they are for the annual It’s a Knockout event at New Brighton Dips on Sunday 21st July.

They’ve arrived with a friend and colleague Don Hazlehurst, from the DWP offices in Birkenhead, and they’re eager to tell me how much they’re looking forward to embarking on the fun-filled obstacle course to raise money for the hospice and, also quite important to them, very important, REALLY important, they’re going all out to WIN!

There’s a competitive streak alright as they recount their victory of a couple of years ago, only to be judged as 3rd in last year’s reprisal. Ooohh, it hurts, I can tell you, and they’re determined to make up for it this year.Leanne and Kristy 8

It’s all in good fun. Well, they really (no, really) do want to win, but they also know that, most importantly, the funds they raise go to Wirral Hospice St John’s, which they so clearly adore.

I start by asking Leanne why the hospice means so much to her. She’s had an affinity with us for over ten years now. Her Dad, Gary, was only 46 when he passed away here with oesophageal cancer here in 2009. He’d been at the hospice in two periods for help with pain management and with his breathing.

“The hospice couldn’t have done more for us. The care was absolutely excellent and all of the staff and volunteers were so nice to me, my sister, Louise, brother, Michael and my mum, Sue. After Dad passed my Mum found the bereavement counselling so beneficial and it really helped with our loss and explaining it to the younger children and grandchildren.”

Leanne and Kristy 2Don, who is here to support Leanne and Kristy, actually got to meet Leanne’s dad through working with Leanne and became good friends with him. He was keen to support Leanne and the team and was in the team that finished third last year, (come on, it’s a bronze medal!) 

Kristy – don’t dare spell it Kirsty! – is on another plain of competitiveness again! She’s so worried about the will to win in her family that she is humming and hawing about allowing her 8 year old son, Theo, to enter the junior It’s a Knockout on the day.

“He’s worse than me, he’ll just take over. He’ll be ordering the other kids about. It may be next year for him.”

Kristy’s Dad, Les, was also treated at Wirral Hospice St John’s. Les was a big man, six feet two and had been a landscape gardener. Bowel cancer was his condition and, like so many families, they chose to focus positively on living as well as possible for his whole life.

Les was known as Goggog to Theo, (who hadn’t quite got his pronunciation around ‘grandad’ as a baby) and his big sister, Tia. He died at age 55 and left a massive gap for the whole family Kristy, her brothers Tim and Craig, her Mum Lorraine and Les’s Mum, Kristy’s nan, Flo.

“I remember people at the hospice, including families who were also with their loved ones, forming a mini-community. The staff and volunteers were really lovely. Mum and I had bereavement counselling which I know helped Mum and helped me personally, giving me strategies to explain Dad’s passing to my children.”

Leanne and Kristy support the hospice in many ways throughout the year. They support our Summer Memories campaign by buying a commemorative flower every year and also Light Up a Life around Christmas time.

Right now, I think we’re beginning to understand,  they’re looking forward, in a big way, to It’s a knockout!

The DWP staff see it as a team bonding exercise for those who take part and all their colleagues who sponsor them and come down on the day to support them.

Leanne and Kristy 7Don, unfortunately, can’t be in this year’s event and as the team were called Don’s Warrior Princesses (D.W.P. I like what you did there) last year, they might be competing under a new name!

It’s a great, fun, day with plenty for the whole family. Ice Cream, fast food, tombola, face painting, fair rides, stalls and the kids favourite, junior assault course. The spectacle of the teams as they play off in It’s a Knockout is great fun in itself and the upbeat music keeps the whole thing moving.

So, we’ll see you all there on Sunday 21st July and, whatever you do, don’t get in Leanne’s or Kristy’s way!

Author: Billy Howard

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! 

Mark James 2

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!)

Mark James (2)

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).

Mark James 6

Spotlight On: Penny Lee: Co-ordinating Life Affirming Activities in our Wellbeing Centre # wirralhospice #wellbeing #caring #fun #thankyou #hospicecare #hospicehero

PennyThe ancient Greeks were pioneers in many fields which still impact modern life. Some people, and the subject areas they specialised in, are universally famous. We’ve all heard of Hippocrates in medicine, Socrates in philosophy and Pythagoras in mathematics.

Wirral Hospice St John’s applies learning, practise and innovation in all of those fields: Progressive treatments and therapies for the relief of pain and discomfort in Medicine contribute to the essential work of the hospice; Philosophy is used in strategies which inform coping, counselling and caring for patients and their families; And, we also employ basic Mathematics, not least when counting up the many donations generous supporters make, which help us to provide our vital services.

One more area, for which we are indebted to the ancient Greeks is, Art! The way they found expression in art is still inspiring the various forms we see today. At the hospice we’re especially lucky to have a special modern descendant of Greece, our Wellbeing Centre creative therapies co-ordinator, Penny Lee!

Penny is Greek? Well, actually, Penny, (is there a more English sounding name?) was born and brought up in England by her German mum, Ute, and Greek dad, Costas. She has a fireman brother, also Costas, and she has a, rather lovely, birth name, Panayota Olymbios

I don’t know about you but, that makes me want to book a two week summer holiday in the Greek Islands! It definitely means we need to know more about Penny, her motivations, including her passion for art and its use as a creative therapy in the Wellbeing Centre.

“Our patients face real challenges with their various conditions and our job is to gently encourage activities which feed their spirit. It’s not about being a fantastic artist; we simply provide the materials to enable people to explore their own creativity.”

Art might involve painting or sculpting, drawing or fabric design. It could be a poem or song lyrics. What we absolutely know is, it genuinely helps the people who attend our Wellbeing Centre.

The ‘doing’ is the important thing. It is sometimes the ideal way for patients to ‘escape’, to be lost in the moment and to enjoy a period of relief. At other times people’s feelings are crystallised in their work and it can release emotions. In Wellbeing, Penny, her volunteer helpers and, of course, the clinical staff are close-by for the occasions that require a kind word or, when necessary, some more private conversations.Penny and Norma

Penny’s volunteer helpers, Norma (pictured with Penny), Mike (more of him later), Debbie and Jackie are experienced people who add invaluable support. Listening, nurturing and encouraging people, gently, are the essential characteristics needed to help with creative pastimes.

Wirral Hospice St John’s Wellbeing Centre is a place where people, with life limiting illnesses, are welcomed when they have been referred through their consultant’s, and/or GP’s and/or community nurse(s). People are still under the care of their GP’s but are assessed in our Outpatient’s (also sometimes Inpatients) department to agree a day in the week (Tuesday – Friday), over 8 weeks, when they can attend.

Penny’s inspiration for working in a caring environment stems from her mum who was a care worker in a nursing home. She worked with older people and would often take Penny who, as she reached her teenage years, began to build up a keen respect for people with various health needs. At the same time, at school, Penny was displaying a keen talent for art!

‘A Level Art’ was duly achieved and she had to make a choice, “Should I be a nurse or do art? Health or art? At 18, Penny chose art and went off to Norwich University to study Graphic Design and Illustration. Happily, for our patients, the combination of care and art is now fused in facilitating creative therapies here at the hospice.

Penny WorkAfter graduation, Penny worked at Chandos Records, a specialist company producing classical music records. As a senior graphic designer, her job involved organising photo-shoots, creating illustrations (from listening to the musical pieces) and final art direction for vinyl covers which sold all over the world. If you bought a record of Nigel Kennedy’s, the world famous violinist, in the 80’s the chances are Penny designed the cover!

Penny also experienced the caring work of hospices when a former colleague from Chandos, and a good friend, Mark, died at St Elizabeth Hospice, Ipswich, at only 39 years of age.

Eventually marriage brought Penny to Wirral and she has two boys (pictured with Penny), Daniel 21, who is studying German and Portuguese in Bristol, and Jonny 23 (fondly called ‘Mr Gadget’ by Penny) who works in Manchester for the growing digital content provider ‘Unilad’Penny and Boys

Nowadays Penny also volunteers for an organisation called Place2Be which works with schools to meet the needs of some (often vulnerable) children who don’t always thrive in the mainstream. It’s really inspiring work.

Penny GracieIn June Penny will have been at the hospice for six years. Until she worked here, and even now, Penny has been involved in voluntary work. She loves dogs and has been involved in ‘pat dogs’ for people with dementia (her own dog is Gracie, pictured on the left) . She’s been an Age UK befriender and was working at a café in Willaston when she met Wellbeing Centre volunteer, Mike Ring.

Mike introduced Penny to the hospice as a volunteer and, when a staff position became available, well, the rest is history. That’s not ancient Greek history mind, it’s modern history being made with a Greek, plus German and English, influence.

Thank you, Penny, you’re really making history!

Author: Billy Howard

Spotlight On: Liz Munro a fundraising volunteer, ‘par excellence’ #hospicehero #wirralhospice #caring #fundraising #fun # volunteer #thankyou

liz

Wirral Hospice St John’s fundraising office is a hive of activity. There are constant phone-calls and a steady flow of people popping in to make donations, to join various events, sign up for the hospice lottery and drop off prizes (including contributions to our famous in-patients ward’s drinks trolley!) Very often, people from other teams and/or hospice trustees and ambassadors meet in fundraising to share ideas and news from around the place.

Our fundraisers are busy bees. They’re dedicated, driven and conscientious, but, they’ll all tell you, they wouldn’t be anywhere near as efficient without the help of a supportive and highly motivated group of volunteers, each bringing their unique personality, skill and experience to the team.

Today we focus on ‘one of the quiet ones’ (or so you would think) the invaluable and gently effective, Liz Munro.

Liz doesn’t make any fuss in the office. She’s there every Tuesday from 10am to 4pm, handling calls politely while, often simultaneously, packing envelopes, collating information, accepting card payments and sorting through all kinds of fundraising paraphernalia.

When she finds a minute she’ll also get all the teas and coffees in! This unassuming lady is an absolute diamond, the kind of person who, if you had a need she’d help you as much as she could.

liz 1

When I ask her to tell us how she got involved with the hospice and some of her ‘real life’, she’s typically humble: “I’ll tell you everything about me in about 5 minutes and you’ll have nothing to use.” I think she genuinely means it, but there’s plenty worth sharing.

Born and raised in Wirral, Liz attended Upton Hall FCJ before leaving for Durham University where she graduated in PE. Her first job was teaching PE at Helsby Grammar School before moving to Crewe Grammar where she spent a further 11 years. Liz is definitely a sports enthusiast – more about that later!

Her career continued in learning with the education advisory service and, based in nearby Ellesmere Port, Liz became an ‘Education Visitor’. This made learning accessible to people of all ages who might not have necessarily thrived in mainstream education. Liz’s commitment to community and public service has been a mainstay of her life.

Liz finally retired in 2004 when the primary school she was working at, Stanlaw Abbey, merged with another to become Oaks Primary School.

By that time she had already been volunteering at Wirral Hospice St John’s for 3 years. You see, her husband and the love of her life, Keith, had passed away at the hospice in 2001.

Liz tells me a little bit more about Keith. He was from Tain in Scotland (where they make the famous Glenmorangie Whisky). In the RAF he developed a love of languages and went on to study German and Russian at Edinburgh University. He was lecturing in Russian at the old Liverpool Polytechnic (now Liverpool John Moores University) when they met.

Liz positively beams when talking about her children and grandchildren. Keith and Liz were married in 1978 and Keith brought two children, Andrew and Jamie, to the relationship. Liz describes them, now in their 50’s, as just delightful! They have given Liz four of her, soon to be six, grandchildren. Soon to be?  Yes, Liz and Keith also have another daughter, Annie, who is mum of grandaughter, Ella, and now grandchild number six is due in March. Wonderful!

When speaking about Keith’s time in the hospice, he’d been diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2000, Liz remembers, “He was made to feel so comfortable. The staff and volunteers showed great courtesy, patience and were so attentive to his needs. Their kindness was priceless.”

She recalls a nice story when Keith wanted some peaches for his dessert, “Del Monté, mind” he requested. Naturally, the Man from Del Monté said, YES!

Keith died here in July 2001 at the age of 64.

Later that year, Liz began to volunteer for the hospice. Her first campaign contribution was for Light Up a Life in 2001. Liz would take home the hundreds of remembrance Christmas cards to be sorted and packed for posting to all the people who had made their invaluable donations.

In the next year Liz, with family, friends and neighbours hosted a ‘Titanic’ themed event to raise funds for the hospice. Guests were asked to dress for ‘steerage’ or ‘first class’. A gangplank was built up to the front of the house, adorned with lifebelts, a sailboat positioned next to an iceberg (a sheet draped over Annie’s old swing) in the garden.  A string quartet, featuring Annie, played until fireworks signified the ship going down at midnight. “People still talk about the day, it was Keith’s wish to hold it and we managed to raise a nice sum for the hospice.”

liz 7

Sporty Liz missed her games of tennis with Keith and, late in 2002, a friend encouraged her to have a go at golf. After just a few lessons she was hooked, “like some of my shots”, Liz laughs. Soon afterwards she joined, what was then, Wirral Ladies Golf Club in Oxton.

It wouldn’t be long before Liz became embroiled in life at the golf club. So much so that, by 2011, she was named the club’s Captain . What an honour! However, Liz broke many conventions in 2012 by being chosen for a further year. Historically, Liz was the very last ‘female only’ Captain of the golf club as, to comply with equality law, the club has had both a female and male captain since 2012.

Liz chose Wirral Hospice St John’s as her club’s charity of the year in both years as captain. The members insisting that she would have no problem gaining their support, “Wirral Hospice touches everyone here”, they told her. Again, very welcome funds were raised towards helping the hospice maintain our specialist palliative care and support services.

In 2018, Liz and her golf buddy, Janet Mills, made a personal donation to have the hospice featured on a sign on the 6th hole of their newly renamed Wirral Golf Club. 

Thank You, again and again and again. Liz, you are a Wirral Hospice St John’s volunteer, ‘par excellence.’liz 2

Author: Billy Howard

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