Abi and Alfie’s story

Abi & Alfie Jones blessing

Three months after Margaret Jones died at St Christopher’s, Alfie, the grandson she named but never lived to meet, was blessed at the hospice in a special service overseen by hospice chaplain Andrew Goodhead.

The ceremony was the idea of Alfie’s mum, Abi, who knew it was what her mother would have wanted.

“Because Mum couldn’t be here when he was born I wanted to do something for her,” said Abi, who also has a six-year-old daughter, Isla.

“Andrew was such a shoulder for Mum when she was here and she really appreciated everything he did for her so it just felt like the right thing to do and it was really beautiful.”

“I was there with Mum every day for about a month, pregnant. Mum lived for this baby and just wanted to be there for me and wanted to meet him so much.”

Sadly, Margaret died on 22 December, two months before Alfie was born but only days after Andrew had performed another blessing.

“I don’t think Mum was strongly religious, but she took great comfort from Andrew and he came and saw her most days. So, when I think she knew her time was coming, she asked him if he would give a blessing to her and her partner, Alex.

“They’d never married but Andrew arranged a lovely mini ceremony, Mum got a new outfit, and the hospice really went to town getting beauty people in to do her make-up, nails and hair. It was so nice to see Mum like that.”

The following day Margaret contracted pneumonia and died later that week – almost two years after being diagnosed with mesothelioma, a type of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos – in Margaret’s case during her work managing buildings for the Ministry of Defence.

Abi remembers her mum’s response when a referral to St Christopher’s was first discussed after doctors at the Royal Marsden said there was no further treatment they could provide.

She adds: “When the hospice was mentioned, she dismissed it, bless her. She thought if you talked about hospice you were just going to die and that was not the outcome she wanted. She wanted to defeat everyone.”

After a few visits at her home in Thornton Heath, from St Christopher’s community nurses to help with pain relief, Margaret’s condition deteriorated and the family had to make a decision in November 2023.

“Mum had been in and out of hospital and did not want to go back there. So, we chose the hospice and it was the best decision we could have made. Right from the start, you only had to say something once and it would be communicated to the whole team.

“She said it was like a home from home for her. To the staff she wasn’t a number or a statistic she was Margaret Jones and she just knew she was in the right place. And Isla, who hated going to see Mum in hospital, always thought it was a nice place to visit.

“The people that work at St Christopher’s are just a different breed too. They are just angels.”

Abi’s connection with the hospice runs deep. Years before Margaret became ill, the son of one of Abi’s friends was cared for there and, in the years since his death, she’s skydived, midnight walked and helped run football matches and auctions – all to raise money for St Christopher’s.

Having experienced the care and support of the hospice first hand, Abi says she know the links are now long term.

“There’s a 100% connection. If I feel I need to be connected to Mum, I go there. St Christopher’s will always be a part of our lives.”

Abi & Alfie Jones blessing

On the day of Alfie’s blessing, Abi proudly took him to meet the nurses who’d been aware of his impending arrival while caring for Margaret.

Tests during her pregnancy pointed to a strong possibility that Alfie would have Downs and that just increased Margaret’s desire and determination to be there to support Abi.

“Every time I look at Alfie I think about Mum and just want to talk about her. We will have our challenges along the way with him and I know Mum wanted to be there to help me.”

It’s been a very challenging couple of years for Abi and her partner Mark, as, in addition to Margaret’s death, Abi’s father died two years ago as did Mark’s last year.

“But when Alfie was born it was like a sort of closure on all the bad stuff and it feels like Mum has given me a healthy boy and is supporting me.”

Eileen’s story

Lottery Winner Eileen Smith

Whether it’s walking, singing, playing the lottery of donating monthly, Eileen Smith has found many ways to support St Christopher’s over the years.

Living in South East London all her life, Eileen, now in her 70s, says she’s been aware of the hospice for as long as she can remember and recently doubled her St Christopher’s lottery plays to two tickets a month on top of her monthly donation.

“I think I was first properly conscious of St Christopher’s when an old school friend was admitted about 25 years ago. And I’ve always just known it for being a such a lovely place.”

More recently, Eileen has been an active member and treasurer of the Carefree Singers, based near the retirement flats in which she lives in Bromley. The 22-strong group performs regularly and often raises money for St Christopher’s at those concerts.

“We performed at St Christopher’s one Christmas, and we had such a fabulous audience. It was the best feeling in the world singing there.

“There’s just a special feeling about the place – it’s the serenity, cheerfulness and atmosphere.”

When major fundraising events like the London Marathon were cancelled during COVID-19 Eileen took on the 2.6 challenge, walking 26 laps of the garden in her retirement complex and raising vital funds for St Christopher’s.

If the time was to come, Eileen says she would be very happy to cared for by St Christopher’s and thinks everyone should consider that possibility.

“I would encourage everyone to think about playing the St Christopher’s lottery because it’s such a wonderful place and you never know when you or a loved one might need it.

To help St Christopher’s continue to provide quality end of life care for thousands of people every year and be in with in chance of winning up to £5,000 every month, join the lottery for as little as £5 per month. Get involved here.

Kate Wilson’s Blog

Kate Wilson

As she starts the second of our two-year Advanced Clinical Practitioner and Nurse Consultant Development Programme, Kate Wilson shares the growing pains of performing this new role as well as the programme’s impact on her skills and confidence to meet the challenges of leadership.

Every session in this programme has left me saying ‘wow!’ and provided me with new knowledge, given me fresh ways to address difficult situations or just helped me to look at them in a different way.

January’s three-day, in-person sessions were, in a practical sense, I think probably the most valuable I’ve experienced so far. They further confirmed for me the kind of leader I am, the leader I want to be and have given me the tools, not only to put those skills into action, but also to demonstrate to my colleagues the true meaning and potential value of nurse leadership.

Heather Richardson, Director of Academic Learning and Action, St Christopher’s CARE, along with guest speaker, Jessica Pryce-Jones, challenged us to think about the kind of leaders we are and the respective skills of leaders and of managers. We explored the very concept of management and leadership for Advanced Nurse Practitioners and Nurse Consultants, the tensions between them and how we can navigate them. In fact, we collaborated on creating our own definitions. Leadership, we said, is about inspiring and guiding teams to a shared vision, and management is focused on organising resources to execute the tasks necessary to achieve that vision.

These sessions were particularly timely for me as we’re in the process here at St Barnabas of taking the team on a journey to appreciate the scope of our practice as nurses, the potential voice we can have and the true value of nurses as leaders.

During my training, we broached the concept of leadership, but with a management focus, with a placement in our third and final year. After qualifying there was little training available to develop and build on these skills. Consequently, I think there is a risk of misunderstanding what clinical leadership can look like – seeing it as limited to managing positions. Branching out to bigger picture stuff can seem alien and inconsequential to everyday work. It’s always going to be a bumpy ride navigating new concepts. But as nurses I want to see us contribute more to decision-making around service delivery. With our experience at the coalface, we have so much to offer, beyond just the clinical in terms of using that knowledge to influence the bigger picture.

I’ve decided to take a small step backwards to enable me to establish the ANP role within the team. So, to enable that, I’ve stepped down from my associate nurse consultant role and we’re focusing for the time being on embedding the concept and practice of advanced practitioners, advocating that through workshops and through our everyday work. My goal for the rest of the year – up to the end of the programme – is to use all the skills I glean on the programme to take everyone on that journey. I’m also hoping we’ll be able to develop some of our competencies to establish a pathway for ANP’s and associate nurse consultants for those that want to take that route. That will feel like success and will be a great legacy for the programme

Gail’s marathon story

A compelling mix of personal and professional reasons driving physiotherapist Gail Preston to complete her third marathon

Marathon runners usually have at least one strong reason for pushing themselves through the pain barrier. For St Christopher’s physiotherapist Gail Preston there are numerous motivations for running the London Marathon.

Where to start?

Well, Gail was born and brought up in Beckenham and has been aware of the hospice for pretty much her whole life.

She’s worked as a physio at St Christopher’s, in the in-patient unit, the community and now with outpatients for almost 13 years – a job she says she absolutely loves.

Then there’s the deeply personal motivation. After a youth spent actively avoiding running but being incredibly active – playing water polo at county level and rowing at university – Gail was determined to get fit again after having her first two children.

“I took on my first marathon in London in April 2016. That was after I’d had a miscarriage in the previous October. It was my therapy.

“Then later in 2016 I lost another baby and decided I had to do it again. I would go out for two hours running and once I’d written the shopping list in my head, worked out what presents I was buying the kids, there were no more mundane things to think about and it became really mindful. No one was asking anything of me, other than myself.

“As parents, wives, daughters and employees, there’s always someone who needs a bit of you. While I love giving a bit of myself to be alongside people on their journey it’s also exhausting. I’m doing this for myself, for the sense of achievement and of course to raise money for St Christopher’s. I find it really cathartic.”

So, after a seven-year gap – necessitated by the arrival of her now five-year-old son – Gail is out tramping the trails, tracks and roads as she trains for the rigours of the 26-mile course on Sunday 21 April.

For a woman who’s also completed three triathlons and has plans for two more this summer, Gail isn’t fazed by the prospect of the London race. She just wants make sure she has all aspects of the preparation covered this time.

“This year I’m doing it because I want to and I want to enjoy it. I’m determined to get the refuelling right this time so I can soak up the last few miles, finish tired but strong and good about myself.”

A broken toe and a chest infection haven’t provided with Gail with the perfect build-up, but having started training in October, she reckons she’ll be ready for the big day and able to soak up the atmosphere she remembers so well from her two previous runs.

“It’s the cheering, everybody willing you to do your best and total unconditional support. I mean where else do you ever have so many strangers who genuinely want the best for you. It is such an uplifting atmosphere, especially after you’ve been through so much blood, sweat and tears to be there.”

Gail’s husband, three children (who think she’s mad doing it!) and many friends will be there to support her.

That leads us to another important personal motivation. Gail’s father recently started being supported by St Christopher’s and she’s really hoping he’ll be well enough for her mother to leave him and come and watch and for her parents to host the post-marathon party.

Wearing her professional hat, Gail hopes that running for St Christopher’s will also help to dispel some pre-conceptions and raise awareness about what the hospice really does.

“I want to get it out there that it’s not just about the very end of life but about living and all the staff and volunteers are here to support you live well until you die –it is about putting life into days and not days into life.”

This isn’t the first time Gail’s raised money for St Christopher’s. She and her mother are veterans of wreathmaking, firewalking and both Fun and Moonlight walks. If you’d like to support Gail in her bid to raise at least £1,000 for St Christopher’s click here.

Connor’s marathon story

If he hits his fundraising target Connor will be running in a fairy outfit and with a plate in his leg.

Connor Norris possibly wasn’t following doctor’s orders when, recovering from a broken leg and dislocated ankle, he applied to run the London Marathon to raise money for St Christopher’s.

But, having missed his target of completing the iconic challenge before his 30th birthday, the property manager from Bexley, was determined to do it in his 30th year.

“When I got the call to say I’d got a place I was really chuffed. Then it hit me; I’ve got to run very far,” added Connor.

Pushing him on through the months of training and the race itself, will be memories of his father, Steve, who spent his final few weeks at St Christopher’s 18 years ago after a terminal lung cancer diagnosis, when Connor was just 12.

“I was too young to really appreciate the place and to fundraise back then,” he remembers.

“But the whole family have fond memories of the place and an affiliation with it ever since and my mum is still in touch with one of the nurses who looked after Dad. I remember going there after school, getting something to eat from the café and then going and spending time with my Dad in his room and watching something on TV.”

It’s not the first time Connor has raised money for St Christopher’s. He has organised two charity football matches at Cray Valley Football Club with two teams of friends playing against each other raising more than £3,000.

“I remember when my mum and I went to pick up the collection buckets from St Christopher’s, it was the first time we had been back there since Dad died and that was quite a moment.

“I’ve not known anyone else who’s been cared for at St Christopher’s but so many people I know have relatives who have been and it’s such a special place for people.”

There’s a particular memory of dad, Steve, that Connor might quite literally carry with him as he treads the streets of London in April.

“I’ve pledged on my Just Giving page that if I manage to raise £3,500 before the race I will run as a fairy in memory of a photo of my dad dressed as one at a New Year’s Eve party at the millennium.”

That’ll be a minor test compared to all the training Connor’s doing, with a plate in his leg, after the winter weather accident he suffered last year, for which he’s still receiving physiotherapy, and the fact that, despite having played football regularly to a decent standard, he’s never done much running.

“The running itself really isn’t too much of a problem. It’s afterwards, my legs just start to go. But I’ve got my family and friends coming down on the day to watch and I’ve booked a pub for after, so I am determined to run it all if I possibly can and hopefully in under 5 hours.”

So long as Connor finishes the marathon unscathed, he’s planning to organise a third and deciding fundraising football match.

If you’d like to take on a challenge for St Christopher’s you can find out more on our events calendar

Chloe and Tracie’s story

When Chloe Newman read through all the hundreds of personal stories on social media of people running the London Marathon just a month after her grandfather Michael Liston had died at St Christopher’s in March 2023, she knew she had to act. But not alone. No, Chloe and her mother Tracie both applied for places in the 2024 marathon.

“When we got the email to say we’d been accepted it was like, wow, we’ve really got to do this now and my Nan couldn’t believe it and said by grandad would be laughing his head off,” says Chloe, 25.

Chloe knows what she’s letting herself in for, as she ran the marathon in 2018. But for mum Tracie this is a whole new experience and she’s honest in her assessment of her own readiness for task ahead.

“I might not be the fittest,” says Tracie, “but it’s a challenge I want to take. It’s a personal thing. I want to give back to St Christopher’s for some of the kindness they gave us. They were our light in the dark and if we can just contribute something to help them to carry on and care for others then that’s what I’m aiming for.”

Tracie and Chloe spent most of the last five weeks of Michael’s life at his bedside in the hospice and say their only regret was that he wasn’t admitted earlier.

“Nothing was ever too much trouble,” says Tracie, 58. “Not once did anyone ever say, can you wait a few minutes please. It was the best possible place for him and for us we knew he was being well cared for, so we had peace of mind.”

For Chloe, it was the home away from home aspect of the care that really struck her as she and Tracie set up shop work remotely from the St Christopher’s café.

“We could take grandad round the gardens, bring our dogs in to see him and managed to have a giggle sometimes too. Then a week before he died, we celebrated his 80th birthday. The nurses decorated his room with balloons, we all sang Happy Birthday, had cake and grandad had his favourite meal – proper East End pie and mash.

“From start to finish there really was nothing more anyone could do, everything was amazing, and all the staff were fantastic.”

After having running shoes fitted, training started in earnest in January for Chloe and Tracie. Tracie is used to walking her dogs and is confident that one way or another she will cross the line.

“I will be at the start line and will finish it, no matter what. I think the crowds will carry us,” she insists.

The pair will do two short runs a week and something a bit longer on Sundays and are realistic about what’s ahead.

“I mean no pain we suffer along the way will be anything compared to what Grandad went through and nothing we do for St Christopher’s can be too much,” added Chloe.

Tracie and Chloe are hoping to raise £5,000 and will give that total a boost when they host an event in March with live music and a raffle to mark Michael’s birthday, the anniversary of his death and to highlight their upcoming marathon adventure.

If you’d like to take on a challenge for St Christopher’s you can find out more on our events calendar

Poppy’s marathon story

Marathon Runner Poppy Younger

Poppy’s father Ricky spent seven and half weeks being cared for at St Christopher’s before he died on 1 March, having been diagnosed with inoperable cancer in October 2022.

“We’d heard of St Christopher’s and been to the charity shops but had never been to the hospice and had no idea what it was really like. Coming from hospital, the difference was amazing. Everyone from reception to the café staff, nurses and volunteers, they were all so lovely. We felt so welcome and at home. My mum stayed over for the last two weeks and I was often there until midnight. It was just a magical place for us to spend the last few weeks with Dad.

“He particularly loved the foot massages, which made him feel relaxed, and the ice creams – he couldn’t get enough of them.”

When Ricky died, aged 62, Poppy and her mother and brother Josh, vowed to raise as much money as they could for St Christopher’s. He was a familiar and popular figure in the community having been the site manager at a local school and the family quickly raised £5,000 for the hospice.

Poppy was determined to do more. She and her mother had been to watch the London Marathon for years – supporting friends and enjoying the atmosphere.

“For ages I’ve said I’d run it one year and I just thought there would never be a better year to do it so I applied, without telling anyone, not really thinking I’d be successful and then when I heard I’d got a place, the reality set in.”

Poppy describes herself as fit-ish. Her dad taught her to play golf and she started going to the gym regularly over the last few months. She’d never really done any running though.

“I’d be out of breath just running for a bus, so it was hard work when I started training in September.”

A few months into training, and Poppy is now running for an hour three to four times a week but is acutely aware of the challenge and distance ahead as her morning commute to Tunbridge Wells is 25 miles – just less than the marathon distance. She says everywhere she goes she is conscious of distances.

So far, Poppy thinks she’s on track to be ready for the big day and says that having the personal motivation really helps on those days when she’s just not feeling it.

“It can be hard when it’s dark and chilly. But I am determined to keep going and know Dad’s laughing at me and saying, ‘get your backside in gear!’.”

A carol concert at St David’s school in West Wickham, where Poppy’s mother works, gave a serious boost to her £2,500 fundraising target.

Looking ahead to the big day in April, Poppy is expecting sizeable support from her large family and friendship group and expects the crowd will help carry her to the finish line.

“I feel good running on my own but I’m also getting used to crowds by doing Park Runs at the weekend. If I hit the wall at about 18 miles, I expect I’ll probably just burst into tears. I’m not worried about times; I just want to get to the finish.

“But I can’t wait to have the medal, put it in a frame on my wall, have that amazing feeling of being able to say I’ve done it and raised as much money as I can for St Christopher’s as my way of giving something back.”

If you’d like to take on a challenge for St Christopher’s you can find out more on our events calendar

Close family connections motivate marathon man David

With a grandfather and uncle who were cared for at home by St Christopher’s, a grandmother who was employed in various roles in the hospice for 25 years and a sister who has volunteered in a number of its shops, there was never any doubt which charity David Shaw would be running for in his first London Marathon.

When you add in that David’s father and four uncles used to participate regularly in a very different kind of a fundraising race for the hospice 50 years ago, it really was a done a deal.

“The whole family just loves St Christopher’s,” says David, 31, of Crystal Palace.

David’s Grandparents

“It all started with my grandmother Ann who worked in the kitchen and various other roles up to the early 90s. Dame Cicely Saunders attended her funeral in 2001. Then they looked after my grandfather Jack, when he died of cancer in 1996. I always wanted to give something back.”

David’s Uncle Tony

David’s uncle Anthony Shaw was also cared for at home at the end of his life. As a result, David’s family, particularly his mother Janet Shaw, have participated in many events and been involved in numerous fundraising efforts, including bake and plant sales, over the years.

David, who was brought up in Petts Wood and now lives in Crystal Palace, passes the hospice regularly on his training runs and is glad of the reminder of the cause for which he’ll be running in April.  Although he does bemoan the hilly terrain of south east London.

“Being 6ft 4ins puts a real strain on my knees and all the hills just make it even worse,” he adds.

Those training runs also see David cover the same ground as his father, John and four uncles in the 1970s and 80s when they competed in fancy dress in the St Christopher’s Pram Race, down Sydenham High Street from the top of Wells Park Road to The Bell pub at Bell Green.

“Dad and his brothers grew up in Kingsthorpe Road and competed in this event many times and even won it one year, in the late 70s I believe. This was our family’s first recorded instance of organised fundraising for St Christopher’s and we have participated in many other fun events since then – it’s nice to think that we are still trying to do our small bit (in race form too!) to support the hospice 50 odd years later.”

It won’t be David’s first marathon – that was a very different affair. The Marathon du Medoc, staged near Bordeaux, involved drinking a glass of wine every mile. “Amazingly, I felt better at the end of the race than I did at the beginning,” David recalls.

He’s also completed the Brighton marathon and, with a fair wind, is hoping to beat three and a half hours, both for personal achievement and because it will mean doubting friends will have to make good on offers to up their sponsorship, helping to drive him towards his £6,000 target.

With such a close family connection, David is guaranteed plenty of support on the day and is looking forward to celebrating with them all afterwards.

If you’d like to support David’s fundraising, visit his page where you can make a donation

If you’d like to take on a challenge for St Christopher’s you can find out more on our events calendar

Sleep easy after writing your own Death Book

Harriet Inglis is a woman determined to help us all feel more relaxed about life and about death. So much so, that she’s created two totally different products designed with those laudable twin aims in mind. One, a facemask, to mellow your face and eyes, the other, a ‘deathmin’ organiser to give you and your loved ones peace of mind about when you die.

Having experienced the death of both her mother and father by the age of 22, neither of them having left any sort of useful instructions or expression of their wishes, Harriet decided early on that she’d tackle death and dying head-on in a matter-of-fact way.

Central to that is speaking openly and honestly with her four children aged 13-20 as well as her wider family and friends.

“I’m not frightened of dying and these conversations don’t need to be sad,” Harriet says.

She launched Spacemasks, the jasmine scented, heated eye patches, in 2017 and their success, including raising thousands for the Royal Marsden, has given Harriet a platform via her 82,000 followers on Instagram to talk about death and dying.

“During lockdown I started giving people daily tasks to do. It was random stuff, like tidying your sock drawer. Then one day I told my followers to write down their choice of hymns and readings for their funerals and it just blew up.

“Everyone said they were really grateful that I was talking about something like this. And that got me thinking that there would be demand for a book.”

The Death Book says on its bright orange cover: Organise the aftermath to perfection. Make sure your nearest and dearest know exactly what’s what following your demise.

That’s exactly what Harriet wishes her parents had done 30 years ago. Now, she’s helping thousands of people put their minds at rest.

“When someone dies, particularly unexpectedly, people will be in such horrible shock that talking about the practical things is the last thing you want to be doing, so to have it all written down makes them feel better and they can just put it in a drawer and forget about it,” she adds.

“The worst thing would be to arrange someone’s funeral and to mess it up or to feel like you hadn’t done what they would have liked.”

While absolutely providing an aide memoire for people to leave precise funeral instructions, The Death Book also encourages the writer to detail all sorts of crucial information, including where they’ve left their will, bank account and social media logins, important details about pets and anything else that matters to them and will make life easier for those they leave behind.

“I know of people who have bought the Death Book for the family and organised a party and they’ve written their Death Books together, while sharing a bottle of wine. I think that’s a great idea.”

Harriet, who lives in Blackheath, is the first to admit that it was only recently that she came to understand the truth about hospices.

“I had a friend who died in St Christopher’s last year, but until then I used to imagine they were depressing, horrible places where you go to die. I now know that they are the most marvellous places offering loads of therapies and nothing like sterile hospitals.”

St Christopher’s recently took delivery of a batch of Spacemasks from Harriet and she’s keen to support the hospice’s efforts to engage people in conversations about death and dying using the Death Book.

What about plans for her own funeral?

Harriet reveals two details about what she’d like, when the time comes. Firstly, all the guests should wear something purple, as a nod to her love of the singer Prince and secondly, after her grandparents vetoed it at her wedding, she fully expects a trumpeter to play at her funeral.

If you’d like to help a loved one spare you the dreaded ‘deathmin’ or feel ready to start recording wishes and vital information, you can buy your copy of The Death Book here.

Debbie’s Fun Walk Story

Just over a decade since her daughter, Jennifer, died aged just 27, Debbie Slaughter is as keen as she was back in 2014 to participate in the St Christopher’s Fun Walk – to remember her only child and to support the hospice that provided her with love, dignity and self-respect.

Debbie, her husband William, their grandson – Jennifer’s son – also William, now aged 12, his father and a group of about a dozen friends and family, have taken part in the Fun Walk every year since Jennifer died, raising more than £20,000 in the process.

“Jennifer used to do it with her friends and it just felt like the natural thing to do,” says Debbie, who lives in Bromley. “She died in the November and we did the walk the following spring and it’s carried on every year since.

“We really look forward to it. Yes, it’s very poignant, but it’s also, as the name suggests, a great fun day too. We wear T-shirts with a photo of Jennifer on and no matter what the weather, rain or shine, enjoy remembering her.”

Since completing the first walk in his pushchair, William, has been determined to finish under his own steam and, according to Debbie, normally reaches the end way ahead of the rest of the group.

“Even though he was only two, William vividly remembers going to St Christopher’s, walking in the gardens and looking at the carp in the fishponds.

“He asked me to say on his behalf, ‘I love raising money for St Christopher’s so that others can be looked after like my mother was and to buy equipment for people staying there to make their overall experience comforting.’”

Debbie, assistant manager at Cook in Petts Wood, says the relationship with St Christopher’s has been constant since Jennifer died of cancer back in 2013. William had bereavement counselling a couple of years ago and while Debbie and the rest of the family haven’t taken up that offer, she says it’s a huge comfort to know it’s there whenever they want or need it and is symptomatic of the care and support the whole family have always received.

“From the day Jennifer was admitted to St Christopher’s we just felt a huge sense of relief and comfort – like we’d been taken under their wing and looked after. I just don’t know how we’d have coped without them.

“Everyone, the doctors, nurses and volunteers, all had an innate sense of what was needed and when. Jennifer’s wishes and needs were always paramount, and they understood how important it was to maintain her dignity and self-respect.”

As she prepares for this year’s walk on 12 May at Keston Common, Debbie has some words of encouragement for those thinking about taking part and advice on how to maximise their fundraising efforts.

“It’s just a lovely way to remember your loved one in the company of like-minded people who understand what you are going through or have experienced, and gives you a sense of achievement, raising money for St Christopher’s in memory of your loved one. Come rain or shine you’ll also meet lovely people along the way and find it comforting to speak to someone about your loved one.”

And as for those tips for raising as much money as possible, here’s Debbie advice:

“Set up your webpage early and spend a bit of time making it look nice because good photos do tug at the heart strings.

Fun Walk Logo

“Spread the word as far as you can. I’m not so good at social media but I know people that are – get your friends to help you reach more people. So many people locally know about and have a connection with St Christopher’s, you just need to jog their memory.

“Talk to you employers, mine are very supportive and want to help in any way. I put up notices in the shop. Don’t be afraid to ask them for help.”

Come the walk in May, Debbie’s pretty sure she knows what her daughter would be thinking. “Jennifer would be very proud and especially of William. I know she would have done exactly the same if the roles had been reversed.”

If you’d like to join Debbie and her family on 12 May, sign up now for the Fun Walk 2024 here.

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