‘Christmas Lights’. Friendly rivalry in Templemore Road inspires our Wirral Christmas Lights Trail

#Christmas #fun #fundraising #hospicecare #community

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, so the lyrics of the famous yuletide song go and, in this year of all years, we can all do with some seasonal cheer.

Ian, up the ladder, with son, Jordan, fitting their Christmas lights

So, we were delighted at Wirral Hospice St John’s when neighbours at Templemore Road in Oxton decided to add support to our Wirral Christmas Lights Trail, while showcasing the extra special effort they’ve been putting into decorating the outside of their homes for a number of years now.

We spoke to Ian and Nina from Templemore about the road’s annual lights fest and their, in effect, open-air Grottoes which have been attracting sightseers from all over Wirral this year.

“As a family, Christmas has always been a pretty big deal for us and we’ve always gone a bit OTT with the Christmas lights.

Our friends of over 30 years, Dave and Alison, who live a couple of doors away, and our, now grown up, children really look forward to the Christmas ‘lights-off’. (Well, ‘lights-on’ actually!) 

Ian and Dave are especially competitive so it has become a bit of a thing about who can outshine the other. They’re like big kids at this time of year but we know it’s just a bit of fun at the end of the day. Over the years many other neighbours have also shown their support and are becoming more and more involved.

As Ian is an engineer by trade, he thoroughly enjoys designing and making his own creations. Dave, in turn, acquires every Christmas inflatable he can find, including massive Santa’s, polar bears, penguins, reindeer, bells, Christmas trees,  snow scenes and thousands of twinkling lights!

Another ‘Big Kid’ checks out the Christmas lights

Stuck between the competing families are neighbours, Will and family, who have been caught in the crossfire and now just think, ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’.

So now, and for the past seven years since we moved into Templemore, the number of neighbours joining in has steadily grown.

During this year’s lockdowns, the road formed a supportive and friendly WhatsApp group and the ‘chat’ since summertime was about going all out for Christmas to bring a bit of cheer to the whole neighbourhood after this challenging year.

Then, in November we spotted that Wirral Hospice St Johns were promoting a Wirral Christmas Lights Trail and the whole group agreed that many people in the area have personally experienced the care and support of our hospice and that it was the ideal charity for us all to get behind. 

Now, with the story having been picked up by the Wirral Globe and with social media support from the hospice, and many others, we have hordes of families, every single evening walking up and down the road.

Cars form queues at busy times. But everyone keeps a social-distance and it is wonderful for us to see so many happy, smiling faces. (Although sincere apologies to those having to pack their toddlers back into the car, crying because they want to stay longer!)

It has really lifted the spirits. The roads adjoining ours are also getting in on the act and we know many more around Wirral are too, which is so heartwarming to see. With people also making their kind donations to Wirral Hospice St Johns it makes it all the more worthwhile.”

Lovely sentiments from Nina and Ian, all their friends and neighbours, and now, of course, all the other people who are joining in these festive celebrations.

At the hospice we are truly grateful to everyone in our whole Wirral ‘family’ as we say to them, sincerely,

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good ‘light’!

NB: In a year when many events have been cancelled it’s heartening to know our Wirral community are finding many innovative ways to help their local hospice.

With the impetus from our friends at Templemore Road the Wirral Christmas Lights Trail has really taken off with over 50 different households all around Wirral now taking part in the festive celebration.

You can find out more about the trail here www.wirralhospice.org/lightstrail And, if you can, please make your kind donations to the campaign here www.justgiving.com/fundraising/wirralchristmaslights

The Night’s Watch: Steve Roberts supports the hospice, both night and day #hospicehero #volunteering #patientcare #fundraising #community

Often you will turn around at Wirral Hospice St John’s and Steve Roberts, often for reasons not always immediately obvious, will be in your line of vision.

He’s an ‘Every-Person’. He might be jet-washing a patio area, fixing a light, cutting grass, checking the CCTV, touching up some paintwork, pat-testing the defibrillators, picking up or starting some laundry or just smiling, ready for a chat, when he picks up the internal or external post.

Employed as a ‘bank’ worker in our night ‘security’ team, he’s available (nearly) all hours of the night when called upon. However, throughout the COVID-19 lockdown and beyond, we’ve also seen him adding hours, which he’s volunteered for, during the day!

Steve is ‘Wirral’ through and through, starting school at Mersey Park in Tranmere and after leaving school he progressed to become a HGV fitter, then joining Unilever as a quality control technician. He then moved across to the security department where he spent 20 of his 39 happy years of service, latterly as security team leader.

In his home life he lives with partner, Jean, on the Eastham/Bromborough border! A keen DIY’er and ‘Man-Caver’ his name recently came up in dispatches, in a missive from the Cheshire Freemasons.

You see, Steve is an active freemason and his charitable works therein have not gone unnoticed. Down the years he’s been very active in both Cheshire and West Lancashire provinces. The Freemasons are renowned charitable givers across a range of charities and Steve also goes above and beyond in his duties.

As a visiting volunteer he helps to assess and administer financial assistance to freemasons and their families who, maybe through redundancy, ill health or even a death, become eligible for the special welfare awards the freemasons can deliver. Also when the government issued a call for citizens to apply to help with ‘community drop off’, Steve, stimulated by the calls to assist the community from within the Cheshire province, was quick to offer his services to the hospice..

Most recently, Steve was able to donate £120 (+ the 25% gift aid he was eligible to claim) to the hospice because a path he built, using 24 contemporary circular stepping stones to his ‘man-cave’ at home, didn’t work for him, after he‘d laid them.

His neighbour, seeing Steve start to take up his work, asked Steve if he could take them off his hands. So, for a discount off the retail price, at £5 per stone, Steve told his neighbour their joint endeavours would now benefit the hospice. CHEERS GENTLEMEN!

Steve’s since built the pathway he wanted – very nice indeed!

In normal times Steve also volunteers to help at various hospice events and special occasions. We see him at our annual Light up a Life lights switch on service* helping to marshal the crowds around the hospice gardens, also helping with the annual Christmas tree collection and he also lends a hand at our Summer ‘It’s a Knockout’ event.

He can’t speak highly enough of the care and compassion of the nurses he observes on his regular night shift. It is a quieter time than the rest of the day but, from time to time, Steve has been able to offer a visiting family member a drink, often tea but sometimes something a little stronger if they’re in any distress (and not driving).  

He loves the atmosphere at the hospice and has a very good rapport with the rest of the maintenance team too. He has a natural cheery disposition and when his night shift is over the last job he has to do before heading home is to feed the fish in our garden pond.

I imagine him spreading the feed, wishing the fish a great day then striding off ready for a well earned rest but also looking forward to the next bit of good work he can do.

Top Man, Steve.

Many Thanks for all you do!

Author: Billy Howard

*Sadly, due to the pandemic and the restrictions that have been put into place preventing crowds gathering, we have decided to cancel this year’s outdoor Light up a Life carol service. We will film a ‘Virtual Light up a Life service’ which will be on our website, this will be available to watch at 6pm on Sunday 6th December.

This one’s for you Dad. Andy McKinney and friends to ride from Chester to Amsterdam in memory of dad, Paul. #hospicehero #hospicecare #nursing #fundraising #bikeride #care #thank you

Andy McKinney with bikersAndy McKinney is full of pride when he remembers his dad, Paul, who was with us at Wirral Hospice St John’s until October 2019 when he passed away, having lived with throat and lung cancer for several years.

The hospice couldn’t do enough for my dad. The nurses were so attentive and the care he received was, honestly, second to none. He’d be delighted now that we’re aiming to raise some funds for the hospice with our bike ride from Chester to Amsterdam. The lads have been training so hard to make him proud.

Yes, on Wednesday 19th August, Andy and six other friends will be setting off on their bikes from the iconic Eastgate Clock in Chester to arrive three days later, via the Hook of Holland port, to Amsterdam Rijksmuseum (not ‘bikes museum’!)

It’s a grueling and intense ride from one beautiful City to another. The first day is, just the 71 miles, the steepest in climbs (up to around nearly 1400 feet in parts), will see them eventually settle for the evening in the Pennines at Thurlstone MillHouse.

Then, day two is the small matter of 82 miles from South to East Yorkshire to Hull, again the undulating terrain which will test even the keenest of riders.

Having taken the ferry from Hull to Hook of Holland (Hoek Van Holland) on the third leg of their epic journey they ride out on the final 45 mile ride up to Amsterdam. Thankfully in Holland, as everyone knows, the land is a little flatter so that should help on the now, extremely, tired legs.

Andy tells me a little bit more about his dad, (they’re pictured together here enjoying a drink).Andy McKinney with Dad Paul

Paul was born in Hamilton, Ontario in Canada and Andy’s the middle sibling of three brothers all also born in Canada.

Andy McKinney dad coachAs you might guess Ice Hockey was a favourite sport and when Paul and his sons came to the UK, he coached the Deeside Junior Ice Hockey club, The Deeside Dragons. He was held in great affection by many young people, being seen as a teacher and mentor by everyone who enjoyed their time there.

He lived in Chester for many years before settling in Wirral with his beloved Tarnya whom he met at the winter Ice Rink at Chester Zoo which he managed and where she was head of first aid.

They settled in Wirral where Paul’s passion for the whole region flourished, so much so, that Andy says they could have made him a Blue Badge Tour Guide for all of his visiting friends and relatives.

Before, during and, really, despite his illness Paul always motivated his sons to develop positive attitudes, to follow their dreams, travel the world and challenge themselves to new things and sporting achievements.

Andy himself is now a professional player in the National Ice Hockey League for Telford Tigers and, although he’s too humble to say, a google search shows he’s more than capable of handling himself in a very tough sport!Andy McKinney playing

So you just know that, as they’re all set to go, the team made up of Andy and friends, Joel Bate, Tom Briggs, Matt Davison, Luke Briggs, Jack Watkins and Ross Kennedy will be in good shape to complete the challenge.

Andy launched a Just Giving page at https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/john-paul-mckinney setting a challenging target of £10,000 between them to make a great donation to the hospice.

Great good luck chaps. Or ‘Succes (no extra ‘s’) as the Dutch will definitely say.

Author: Billy Howard

The ‘Virtual’ Clatterbridge to John O’Groats Run with 15 old school pals of Calday Grange Grammar. #hospiceheroes #fundraising #running #wirralhospice #marathon #thankyou

Run - graphic -Text 1 (01)When former Calday Grange Grammar School friends Paul Parry and Dave Raven bumped into each other recently (they didn’t literally ‘bump’ as they were socially distancing of course) they had a chat about how they were staying fit during the coronavirus lock-down. (Paul is pictured above Dave from a Zoom meeting – the full picture of which is below*).

They concluded that it would be even more motivating if they had a target to achieve, maybe raise some sponsorship and wondered whether they could get a bunch of their old pals involved. They’re all in their mid-thirties now and have all stayed in touch since school.

So, after contacting their whole group via WhatsApp, and then arranging a Zoom call (all on the picture below*), they chose Wirral Hospice St John’s and Maggie’s Merseyside, both based at the Clatterbridge Health Park, to share the sponsorship monies they were hoping to raise. During the chat it emerged that a number of the chaps have family knowlege of the hospice and of the cancer support centre.

Some were willing to write a line or two about their own experiences and, with their permission, we have shared their recollections.

Dan Burns: “The hospice looked after my dad, Bob Burns, for respite at the back end of last year. They were absolutely amazing with the care and love they gave to him, and my mum. He passed away on the 14th of March, but he runs alongside me every step of this challenge. It’s so fresh for mum and I and we  would love as many people as possible to hear about it. I’m doing this in his memory and for what Wirral Hospice meant to him. x.”

Mike HellerMike Heller (Pictured left here, after a run): My dad, Steve Heller passed away at the hospice 8 years ago. I can remember that my dad really needed that special care as his illness progressed. Nothing was too much for them to do for him. I just remember how good and how nice they all were and how many volunteers they had supporting the nurses and doctors.”

Adam Simpson and Wife, Jo: “Jo’s friend Tricia was cared for at the hospice last year. It was clear to see what a caring special place St John’s Hospice is. Tricia also got so much support from Maggies Merseyside, which really helped her during her hardest times.”

Giles Pullen and Wife, Emily: “Emily’s Grandad, Bernie, spent the last few weeks of his life at Wirral Hospice St Johns, five years ago. I presumed it was a place where people just go to die when the hospital could do no more for you. It was the complete opposite. It was a cheery, happy place with lovely nurses, doctors and volunteers. He died there peacefully and was so content. That’s why it has a special place in our hearts.”

Martin Jones:My dad, Richard (they all referred to him as Dickie while he was in) went into the hospice on 8th April this year. He had just had the worst weekend health-wise. From going about his normal activities, his cancer had spread and he became bed-bound. The hospice stepped in and took control. They were fantastic. Communication throughout was great. They were clear about Dad’s illness but very sensitive to our feelings   Due to the coronavirus pandemic visiting had had to change, but they went out of their way to allow my mum, sister and I as much time as we needed with Dad. They supported our needs and gave the best possible care and relief for my dad. When he passed they were there for us explaining step-by step with thoughtful guidance. We can’t thank them enough. Every nurse was caring and fully up to date with his situation throughout the process. (Around the time my mum was also given the all clear from her bowel and liver cancer). They got to know know my parents really well and have continued support for my mum which has been great during this difficult time.”

And, right now, another runner, Trev Fisher, visits his dad, Roy,  who is with us at the hospice getting pain management treatment associated with his cancer condition. Roy is expecting to go home very soon and wanted everyone to know how proud he is of Trevor and all the lads for raising money for the hospice and Maggie’s. (Roy has been a keen athlete himself having chaired the Pensby Runners for years and having completed hundreds of runs and 13 full marathons in his time, including a sub 3 hour time!) Roy said,

Wirral Hospice St John’s has been a real boon for me. I’m so delighted that Trevor and the lads chose it as one of their charities. I also know of the great work Maggie’s does too. It’s so inspiring as I know that many events and challenges have had to be cancelled because of the current crisis, but people are still finding unique ways to support their favourite causes.

So the fifteen men are now completing a ‘virtual’ 7-day Clatterbridge to John O’Groats running challenge between them! It started on Monday 25th May and will run through until Sunday 31st May. They’re each tracking how far they can run in an hour each day, within the coronavirus guidelines, to get to the total distance of 810 kilometres. Between them they have to average 7.7 kms per day for 7 consecutive days (just under 5 miles a day each!)

Paul Parry (2)Paul Parry (pictured left here, following a run) owns a Heswall business, The Way Fitness, where he is a personal trainer and fitness instructor. His wife’s uncle, Sam Lavin, a fit and strong rugby man in his time was also cared for at Wirral Hospice St John’s for which he and their wider family wanted us to know they are eternally grateful.

Paul is himself, obviously, ‘ever ready’ for challenges but, whereas some of the friends are also members of Paul’s private gym, there are a couple who say they haven’t ‘run properly’ since school. Paul summarised the effort,

Dave and I started talking about getting the lads together for a challenge and we were thinking about maybe doing 100km between us. On the ‘lively’ Zoom call that followed this became much more ambitious and the idea of Clatterbridge to John O’Groats came to fruition. As we chatted it became clear we should raise funds for Wirral Hospice St John’s and Maggie’s as it was eye-opening the number of people who had a personal connection.

Martin Robinson. DubaiWe’re all completing our runs around various Wirral neighbourhoods, although one of the chaps, Martin Robinson (pictured right), lives in Dubai and, while we were all complaining that Monday was a searingly hot day to start the challenge, he reminded us that he was having to get up at 6am to do his hour as the temperature is hitting 38 degrees there just now.

Many pics of the sweating, and sometimes exhausted, lads are adorning social media as they complete their daily challenges and people are sending sponsorship monies to support their endeavour, hurtling them towards their £5,000 target.

There is a link at https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Team/TheLads2 if you would like to show your support.

It really is a welcome fundraiser for Wirral Hospice St John’s (and Maggie’s) right now as many of this year’s larger participation events are now cancelled. Charity finances will inevitably take a hit but, as usual, our Wirral Community have rallied around to help us to continue to provide our specialist care and support services.

And, not least, the lads from Calday Grange Grammar School, still friends after 20 odd years. To them we say, Sirs, you are you are certainly Gentlemen and Scholars and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts….

*The full 15 below are (from l-r)

Paul Parry, Dan Burns, Stu Gosling, Mike Heller, Mark Leyland,

Dave Raven, Matty Roberts, Adam Simpson, Michael Mounsey, Giles Pullen,

Trev Fisher, Martin Jones, Martin Robinson, Matthew Kelsey, Alex Wade.

Run - graphic -Text 1

Author: Billy Howard

If you’d like to help Wirral Hospice St John’s during the coronavirus pandemic crisis, some of the ways you can are outlined at http://www.wirralhospice.org/urgentappeal 

Thank You for always thinking of us.

Paul Parry (2)Dan BurnsStu GoslingMike HellerMark Leyland

Dave RavenDave RavenMatty RobertsAdam SimpsonMichael MounseyGiles Pullen

TrabsKnees in paddling Pool (ice added)Martin Dubai 2Matthew KelseyAlex Wade

Spotlight on Matty Pree – Boxing-off an eye-catching bike ride, within the current COVID 19 ‘allowable exercise’ rules #fun #cycling #hospiceheroes #fundraising #caring #support #thankyou #staysafe

MattyMatty Pree is already a hospice hero. He’s completed three other significant bike rides since 2015 to raise funds for Wirral Hospice St John’s and now he’s just completed in a nice way, his most ‘daring’ yet!

Yes, that’s because, on Saturday 25th April, Matty cycled 18.8 miles on a special route around Northwest Wirral to sensitively comply with the lockdown restrictions of our current COVID 19 crisis. (The ride only took him an hour, which is much less than his previous or future* planned cycling fundraisers for the hospice) 

He was in training for a 193 mile ride this summer for the hospice but the coronavirus has put paid to that (look out for the *From Chepstow to CH46 in 2021). 

So he’d been thinking about what he could do to help raise some funds, stay within government guidelines but, do something eye-catching to capture the imagination?

Well, what about riding around NW Wirral wearing only his BOXERS?

Yep! Tick! Brilliant! Well in Matt! And, it certainly caught people’s attention Can we call you ‘Cyclo-Matt’ (like Speedo Mick)? (He was also clear that he would also have to wear a safety helmet though!) 

Matty's dad Ronnie and darceyI asked Matty why he supports the hospice and he told me about his Dad, Ronnie, who passed away here in 2015 after living with lung cancer which metastasised into a brain tumour. (Ronnie is pictured here with Matty’s Daughter, Darcey) 

“The hospice was absolutely brilliant with my dad. The whole team were fantastic, second to none, and made Dad, our Mum, Mary, my brother, Phil, and I feel as at home and welcome as it was possible to be.

My dad was married to mum for 43 years, he’d been a taxi driver and loved his fishing, crown green bowls and he was a dab hand at Bridge.

He was also a doting grandad to my daughter Darcey, who was only two when he passed away, and my brother, Phil’s children, Jessica and Jake.

We loved him dearly and miss him deeply but he could not have asked for better compassionate care when his illness was at its most challenging.”

Matty's dad Ronnie and Mum MaryIt’s emotional for Matty to recall but he smiles when he starts to tell me about the other bike rides he’s done in his dad’s honour and to raise funds for the hospice. (Ronnie is pictured here with Matty’s Mum, Mary)

The first one was The Wild Wales challenge. Around 100 miles of cycling taking in 10,000 feet of climbs. Spectacular views which Matty only vaguely recalls as it was both exhilarating and exhausting!

In 2017 and with his friend, Chris Iveson, he took on The Way of The Roses, over two days from Morecambe to Bridlington, up-hill and down-dale, this time for a measly 175 Miles!

Then the Ride around North Wales, this time 143.5 miles in July 2018. It was the hottest day of the year and again some of the most beautiful scenery may have been missed as Matty powered on, taking in gallons of water.

Wow, well done sir! Along the way Matty’s rides, on his lonesome or with a pal, have raised a couple of thousand pounds for the hospice, for which he has every right to be very proud.

So, on Saturday 25th April, at 12 noon he set off, for an hour, down to his ‘boxies’, the way you do, and following a circuit which startsed at home in Moreton took in Upton, Arrowe Park, the ‘Barnston Blast’, Heswall, Thurstaston, West Kirby, and through Hoylake and back home, via Moreton town centre.

If you’d like to see the route Matty took and, maybe, give the fund a little boost check out Matty’s ‘Just Giving’ page at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/matthew-pree4

On finishing the circuit Matty said,

“I was a bit nervous going out in my pants at first, but after a few miles it was fine. Got lots of beeps and shouts of encouragement which was nice. One slight downside was I almost had a collision with a car, the first one since I was 19 and I was in my underpants. A car pulled out on me and I hit the side of the bonnet. I reacted quickly enough and it was a minor bump. Felt sorry for the lady driving she was a little shaken up. She apologised and offered to donate. All in all had a good ride out in my pants and the weather was great. I raised even more than I have for any of my rides, that must have been the choice of clothing! I am not sure I could cycle across Wales in a day in my boxers though.”

Matty and Son LucaNowadays he’s also got young son, Luca, alongside Darcey (now 7), looking up to their inspirational dad (pictured left).

Thank You Matty, absolutely superb!  Maybe next year’s 193 miler will top the lot!

However, when he does get around to that challenge, it’s going to be hard doing all of that distance in just his undies!!!

  Author: Billy Howard

If you’d like to take on a challenge during lockdown or even later in the year for Wirral Hospice St John’s, check out www.wirralhospice.org/getactive and as soon as you’re ready, get in touch with the Fundraising team on 0151-343-0778 or fundraising@wirralhospice.org and we’ll support you all the way!

Here’s Ronnie Pree, Matty’s dad, in his younger days, pictured below.

Matty's dad Ronnie in younger days

 

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