31 January 2024

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Debbie’s Fun Walk Story

Debbie Slaughter, a veteran when it comes to Fun Walk, shares her reasons for doing it as well as top tips for raising as much money as possible

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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