A big-hearted powerhouse of a fundraiser, a selfless, long-serving volunteer and a woman who has helped countless families emotionally and practically during their toughest times were celebrated at last night’s Plymouth Community Awards 2019 – and St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth was the link between them!

The annual awards, which note the achievements of those who go above and beyond to help those in need across our city, recognised three of our ambassadors and we couldn’t be prouder!

Cuz Cusson, who lives in Mutley, was presented with a Special Recognition award in honour of his tireless fundraising for our charity. He’s the founder of Rockfest, the popular annual live music extravaganza that is well established in Plymouth and has now raised an incredible £100,000-plus for us in memory of Cuz’s much-missed mum Dot, who received our care.

Jeannie Norris, who is in her 80s, received a Lifetime Achievement award celebrating her amazing volunteering history with St Luke’s. She has exceeded three decades of giving her time and skills unpaid to help our charity shops provide a welcoming and helpful service for bargain hunters. And she’s still going strong there, with the energy and enthusiasm that comes from her passion for seeing our vital service continue.

Recently retired Janet Hearl, also received a Lifetime Achievement Award because for more than ten years, she went above and beyond in her work as our Bereavement Support Worker. She was celebrated for the immeasurable difference she made, coming alongside patients and their loved ones with understanding, empathy and solid practical advice at their times of greatest need.

Huge congratulations from us to all three – we couldn’t wish for better ambassadors and we hope you had a wonderful day.

A homegrown hero of the storytelling world, who has ignited the imagination of millions worldwide with his bestselling children’s books featuring fiction’s favourite elephant, is returning to Plymouth for a very special event!

Plymouth born David McKee, celebrated author and illustrator of the much-loved Elmer storybooks – which have sold a staggering 10m copies around the globe – is in the city for the 30th anniversary of his first Andersen Press Elmer publication and he’s set to launch Elmer’s Big Parade, Devon and Cornwall’s biggest art event of 2019, on Monday 8 July.

The Parade, an enchanting trail of 40 unique elephant sculptures lovingly painted by established and emerging artists, including internationally renowned Brian Pollard, will spread a smile across Plymouth and surroundings for ten weeks until 16 September.

The free, family-friendly event – a collaboration between St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth, Wild in Art and Andersen Press – is expected to attract 250 thousand visitors to Plymouth and surroundings, as well as encouraging local people to get outside to discover each member of the mammoth mob, taking them to places they may not have been to before. Along the way, it is expected to bring a huge boost to the local economy, benefiting businesses from shops to restaurants.

These are no ordinary elephants – they’re on an important mission to raise awareness and funds for St Luke’s and the vital service the charity provides, looking after terminally ill patients and supporting their families when time is running short.

Each of the sculptures is sponsored by a local organisation, including businesses of all sizes, with headline sponsor for the event being Stagecoach South West, the region’s leading bus operator.

The much-anticipated Parade is the culmination of months of preparation as the 40 artists selected to paint an ‘Elmer’ worked their magic, some of them based at Herd HQ within St Luke’s pop-up shop selling quality second-hand furniture at the former Toys R Us store at Western Approach, where they have welcomed visitors keen to get a sneaky peek before the big reveal of the finished masterpieces.

A key part the Parade is the educational programme that has engaged 10,000 students across 25 local schools, generously funded by the Thomas Cook Children’s Charity.

Not only has the St Luke’s Education team encouraged the schools to have tonnes of fun learning more about art and creating their own unique mini Elmer, all of which will be on display at Mount Edgecumbe, they’ve come alongside school staff to enhance their confidence and skills in supporting children living with loss.

It’s estimated that 1 in 29 children – one is every class – has experienced the death of someone close to them, so St Luke’s is working with teachers and other staff to encourage more open conversations with youngsters about death, dying and bereavement, which – when conducted sensitively in an age-appropriate way – help ensure no child feels left behind.

Elmer’s Big Parade Plymouth officially launched early this week at a special preview evening, where all 65 Elmer’s were gathered together under one roof for a big reveal to sponsors and artists. Alongside local artists including Brian Pollard was a very special guest – David McKee.

Elmer creator David McKee, grew up in Tavistock and was educated in Plymouth he said: “The pleasure that you can feel that the illustrators and painters have had working with this, there’s a real excitement to be had with this project, which is incredible.

“I’m 84 now, so I’ve seen the way hospices help families. The hospice isn’t just a building that people go to – while it is a big part of it, an even bigger part is all the work which is done in the actual homes of the people who are suffering. A lot of people would prefer to stay in their own home, and St Luke’s helps them to do that.

“To find out there’s such a high percentage of children who know bereavement through the loss of someone close, and that St Luke’s is very involved in helping the children get through those periods, it’s incredible.

“It’s quite emotional really, knowing that something you started that long ago is not only still around, but new things from others have been made because of that. I suppose in a way, there is a sort of responsibility which you feel. Especially when you realise that it’s not just decorative – the cause is such a good one. Helping St Luke’s in any way is a good cause.”

On meeting David, local artist and St Luke’s patron Brian Pollard said, “It was such an honour to meet and talk to the famous creator of Elmer, David McKee. David was delighted to see his creation come to life with the wonderful creativity of mainly local artists. I was surprised to hear that he had also visited a local gallery to view my paintings and he went on to make some positive remarks about my artwork.

“I think I can speak for all the artists when I say we are all honoured and delighted to be involved in such a wonderful fundraising project, for a charity that is so close to all our hearts.” Brian’s Elmer will be on display outside the Theatre Royal Plymouth.

For many of the artists, the trail has a real personal connection. Local artist Colin Pethick’s involvement was a chance to support St Luke’s and at the same time pay tribute to his wonderful wife Zheng, for whom the charity cared for before she passed away he said: “It was so inspiring to see all the Elmers together, truly mind boggling how so many fantastic ideas have formulated from one form, good old Elmer. To meet David was such an honour. I was moved greatly by the smaller Elmer’s also and the participation of the school children. It is so important to me as an artist that we inspire and encourage the young creative minds and also through that process educate on the notion of bereavement. That for me was why I was so pleased to be invited to take part in the project. It was such a valid form of cathartic release for me personally. Thank you again St Luke’s for everything.” You can see Colin’s Elmer titled “The Beauty of Transcience” displayed on Plymouth Hoe.

St Luke’s Chief Executive, Steve Statham, said: “The wait is over and it’s time for the grand reveal of Elmer’s Big Parade! We couldn’t be more excited to see everyone get out and about across our city’s iconic locations to follow the herd.

“The Parade is going to be a real delight for people of all ages as they explore on foot and interact with the social media side, too. Along the way, they’ll learn more about the outstanding care and support St Luke’s provides for patients at home, in hospital and at our specialist unit at Turnchapel.

“We believe everyone deserves to live well to the end, and it’s only thanks to the kindness of our community that we can sustain our service, being there to make a difference and helping families through the most challenging of times.

“The support of local businesses is a critical part of this, and the way they’ve got behind Elmer’s Big Parade as sponsors is heart-warming. There’s still time for more to be part of one of the city’s biggest events and get their brand in a prominent position seen by thousands – a great opportunity to raise their profile while doing good.

“To everyone who has put in the hours and gone the extra mile to make this fantastic summer extravaganza happen, I want to say a huge thank you. It would not have been possible without our hardworking staff and volunteers, as well as our sponsors and the companies who have given in kind. I feel very proud to be part of such an incredibly caring community.”

Bob Dennison, Managing Director of Stagecoach South West, the headline sponsor of the trail, said: “We are thrilled to be Presenting Partner and supporting such a wonderful charity. We will be working to help raise awareness of Elmer’s Big Parade Plymouth and the incredible work done by St Luke’s, and of course help raise vital funds. We work to support a range of local community causes in the South West, the very communities we help bring together through our local bus services. It’s fantastic to see the excitement about the trail already starting to build and we are delighted to be backing such a fabulous and worthwhile fundraising campaign.”

The grand finale of Elmer’s Big Parade will be the auction at which the Elmer sculptures will be going, going, gone to raise funds for St Luke’s.

The official trail map is available to download via the App Store, Google Play or available in print at local tourist information and St Luke’s charity shops.

For more information about the Parade and how you can get involved, visit: www.elmerplymouth.co.uk or follow the trail on social media @ElmerPlymouth #ElmerPlymouth.

The much-loved St Luke’s at home nurses opened the hospice’s new look Launceston furniture store on Monday 1 July.

The former St Luke’s outlet in the centre of Launceston closed back in February and the hard-working local charity has been looking for new premises ever since. The new shop on Hurdon Road, opposite the busy retail park with M&S Food, Costa Coffee and B&M, offers easy access, parking and a great deal for your money.

This will be the only second-hand furniture shop of this size in Launceston, offering great quality furniture, sofas and refurbished white goods. Also on offer are brand new mattresses, donated clothes, toys, and bric-a-brac at very reasonable prices.

Cash raised from running the store will go towards the over £7 million St Luke’s needs to raise to provide free-or-charge end of life care to families across the area. Around 16% of St Luke’s care last year was delivered to patients in East Cornwall, many at home.

St Luke’s shop manager Karen Millan said, “When you shop with us, you really do make a difference to local people. We’re proud to be back in Launceston at this great location, alongside our other Cornish charity shops in Callington and Saltash.”

Karen explains, “After having my children, I worked for the NHS as a maternity healthcare assistant, then a shop manager, training manager and area manager in charity retail. I also spent much of the last decade as full-time carer for my parents. Sadly, they are no longer here, but after St Luke’s worked with my Mum in her last few weeks I know they would be so pleased to know I am working for such an amazing organisation. I feel privileged and excited to head the brilliant Launceston team.”

St Luke’s Head of Retail, Mike Picken said, “It’s great to be back in this corner of Cornwall and we’re looking forward to welcoming customers old and new with this move to a more accessible location. We can’t do this without the support of the community though. Please consider us when you have household goods to donate – we offer a free-of-charge collection service and we’ll stretch every penny we raise to offer brilliant care to people in our local communities.” St Luke’s has over 30 charity shops across Plymouth, South East Cornwall and West Devon. Last year donations to St Luke’s charity shops generated over £1million of the £10 million cash needed to provide support to families at home or in the St Luke’s unit at Turnchapel. Sale items and other donations can be taken at any of the St Luke’s stores, please call ahead on 01752 964455 to organise large drop-offs or collections.