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St luke's fundraiser Jill sat in a garden

While for many of us, it’s a piece of equipment that goes unused – simply gathering dust despite our best intentions – a Plymouth grandmother living with Parkinson’s disease has used the power of pedalling her exercise bike to raise much-needed funds for St Luke’s.

When she heard about our Landmark Challenge, Jill Baragwanath, aged 77, wasted no time in signing up to take part in our Covid-safe fundraising event in memory of her beloved husband, Gerald, who was cared for by our team at Turnchapel 13 years ago before, sadly, he died.

For Jill, who lives in Pomphlett, it was not only an opportunity to say another thank-you to St Luke’s for looking after such a special man with the utmost compassion, but a chance to keep up her fitness level while the gym she usually attends remained closed under lockdown restrictions.

Cycling a total of over 20 miles on the exercise bike in her bedroom, Jill – who has two daughters and two grandchildren – raised a fantastic £300 in sponsorship to help keep the wheels of our specialist service turning.

Jill, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s last year, said: “Gerald and I were married for more than 45 years and he was a wonderful husband, father and grandfather – a real family man with a zest for life. He was really sociable and loved snooker and gardening.

“It was very hard when he became ill with cancer, but what made it that bit easier to bear was knowing he was receiving such superb care from St Luke’s. Every time I spent the day with him at Turnchapel, which is so peaceful, I left feeling reassured that he was comfortable and in a safe place because everyone there was so kind and nothing was ever too much trouble.

“I do whatever I can to support the charity because none of us must ever take its service for granted. I’ve taken part in the ladies’ Midnight Walk and I donate items to the shops. The Landmark Challenge was an opportunity to do something different while keeping as fit as possible, which is an important part of managing my condition.

“Memories of Gerald and all the happy times we had together helped me to keep on pedalling, knowing I was doing something positive to help other local families affected by terminal illness.”

From all of us at St Luke’s, a big thank you to Jill and everyone else who took part in our Landmark Challenge – and to all those who kindly sponsored them, too!

Ladies across the city are being invited to celebrate the lives of their lost loved ones and put their best foot forward for our Midnight Walk that is making its much-anticipated return this summer.

Following its cancellation last year because of lockdown restrictions, Midnight Walk is set to take place on Friday 20 August. The popular mass participation event raises vital funds to help our charity provide specialist end of life care for terminally ill people at home, in hospital and at Turnchapel, as well as emotional support for them and their families – services that are likely to be needed more than ever in the months ahead due to the impact of the pandemic.

Kindly sponsored by GA Solicitors, Midnight Walk is an opportunity for women and girls of all ages to come together as one to pay tribute to relatives and friends who are gone but will never be forgotten, sharing precious memories and creating new ones as they stride the streets of Plymouth for the sponsored walk.

This year, the ladies will set out from Home Park Stadium, taking on their choice of a 5, 10 or 15-mile route across Plymouth in their brightly coloured tee-shirts adorned with the names of the loved ones whose memory they are honouring.

Speaking about the event, Penny Hannah, Head of Fundraising, said: “If ever there was a year for coming together to walk in memory of lost loved ones, this is it, and we are thrilled that after such a long wait we can finally welcome ladies back to take part in Midnight Walk. We can’t wait to see them, and as always, we are going to make it a really fun night for them all.

“We are conscious though, that alongside the excitement as we move towards the lifting of restrictions on big outdoor events like ours, there is sadness for so many who have been bereaved as they continue to gradually adjust to life without that special person by their side. 

“It’s possible that for some, Midnight Walk could even be the first opportunity they will have to reunite with friends and family they have been forced apart from – and perhaps unable to grieve with – because of the pandemic, which means it will be an extra poignant occasion.

“All ladies are welcome, regardless of whether or not their loved one received care from St Luke’s and, of course, you don’t need to be walking in memory. You can join us simply for the fantastic uplifting atmosphere, knowing you will be making an important difference for local families right when they need it most.”

Registration for Midnight Walk costs £22, which includes the cost of your t-shirt as well as a medal and goodie bag for all completers. Click here for more information and to sign up.

Talented local Plymouth band SuperXLs have been supporting St Luke’s for the past 3 years, by showcasing their musical tribute to the late, great, David Bowie every January. To date the band has raised almost £2000 from those shows alone. The band is made up of five great local fundraising heroes called Ben, Mark, Leo, Jon and Phin.

On the 3 May, the SuperXLs premiered their isolation video to thank frontline workers fighting covid-19. The song titled ‘Heroes for Heroes’ has raised just under £2000 for St Luke’s, ensuring local families get the care and support that they need at end of life.

Mark Trewin from SuperXLs said, “We had to do something as a tribute to all the frontline heroes working so hard in our community during these challenging times” Mark continued “St Luke’s was the obvious choice to raise money for. One of the band members has a family member being currently cared for by the hospice, so it has a personal connection too and is even more meaningful to gift our time and raise much needed funds.”

The band are urging people to watch their video on YouTube and make a donation of support.

Penny Hannah, Head of Fundraising at St Luke’s, said “The video is best enjoyed with a drink in hand and the sound up loud, the emotional introduction had me and my family in tears, so much passion shared by the band. The words of the song are very powerful and thought provoking, and the images shared of our incredible nurses. I know the challenges our nurses and doctors are faced in these unprecedented times to care for over 300 families in and around our City, it really is heart touching.

“I would like to thank the band for their support and everyone who has donated to the JustGiving page and throughout the pandemic. We really need your support and we are so very grateful, thank you for caring.”

Leaping 15,000 feet from a plane is an exhilarating way to raise funds for our patient care, but what motivates someone to embrace a challenge many would find too daunting?

For nursery worker Rosie Pryce, 23, it is the memory of her much-loved grandad David, who was looked after at Turnchapel before sadly, he died last November, aged 86. Thanks to the outstanding quality of the care David received after he was transferred from hospital to our specialist unit, Rosie is taking on a skydive as her way of thanking our charity for making his last days of life so peaceful and comfortable.

She said: “Grandad was very frail and his condition was deteriorating so he chose not to have anyone visit him at the unit except my grandma Sylvia and their three children, including my dad Kevin. While it was very hard knowing he was so poorly, it was such a comfort hearing from them that he was being looked after by nurses they described as ‘angels’ whose care they said was ‘perfect’.

“I was so reassured to know grandad was in the best possible place for him, with the privacy of a room where grandma could stay by his side day and night. They were childhood sweethearts and married 64 years so spending this precious time together in such an uplifting environment really made a difference to them both at a difficult time.

“The St Luke’s team made sure grandad was pain free, and the nurses were so kind. They turned his bed so he could enjoy the wonderful views out across the water because they heard how he was mad about all things coastal and once owned a boat.

“I have happy memories of days spent with him by the sea, and his love of outdoor swimming was legendary, so it means a lot to know that he could take in a view that was so meaningful to him.”

“When I heard about the opportunity to do a skydive to raise money to give something back to St Luke’s, it really appealed to me. I’m quite a thrill-seeker anyway and felt like I wanted to do something remarkable for grandad because he was such a kind and special person who always had time for me.

“He was a practical joker and that fun-loving side has rubbed off on all our family. Although it’s a big leap, I think the skydive will be great fun so it’s a fitting way to remember grandad and do good for other local families who need the help of St Luke’s.”

Thank you, Rosie – we really appreciate you taking the plunge for our charity!

With this week, being not just the start of the new year but a whole new decade, many will be looking to set goals for themselves or even take on an exciting challenge for 2020 – or beyond!

What better way to push yourself out of your comfort zone than by getting involved in a challenging and exciting event that also benefits your community? We are urging you to put your best foot forward, take a leap or even scale the world’s longest manmade structure to raise funds that ensures care in our community

Today, we have launched not just one but two of our most popular flagship events, Men’s Day Out and Midnight Walk, giving people the chance to celebrate the lives of their lost loved ones while raising much-needed income that helps families make memories together when time is running short.

Men’s Day Out, is loved for the rugby, banter and camaraderie and the unity of walking together raises thousands for St Luke’s. Officially, the region’s biggest men-only sponsored event for charity is back this Saturday 28 March. The event, which is Powered by IU Energy, will see guys gather for a day to remember, striding the city streets before they return to Plymouth Albion RFC for a well-earned pasty and pint and the not-be-missed clash between the home team and their Richmond rivals.

Meanwhile, St Luke’s is inviting ladies to turn Plymouth pink on Saturday 11 July, when its popular Midnight Walk returns. This year, the much-anticipated event, which is sponsored by Nash & Co Solicitors, includes a new challenge – 20 miles for 2020 commencing at 20:20 hrs – in addition to the new 5 and 10-mile routes. That’s not all that’s new, because this year walkers will set off from Home Park (Plymouth Argyle FC) and all will be wearing Midnight Walk’s signature bright pink t-shirts. As always, it promises to be a great night out with the girls, with many walking in memory of loved ones.

Nina Wearne, Community and Events Fundraising Manager at St Luke’s, said: “Whether you take part in Men’s Day Out or Midnight Walk as a personal challenge or to celebrate the life of someone special, please know that St Luke’s could not do what they do without the support from you, our kind-hearted community. Perhaps this is your first time, or maybe it’s an event you enjoy year after year; these events are a fantastic way to have loads of fun whilst making a vital difference for local families.”

For those who’d prefer to take the plunge to show their support for St Luke’s, there are opportunities to take part in an exhilarating skydive on Saturday 21 March sponsored by BT Local Business. The 15,000ft leap is free for those who raise a minimum of £395 in sponsorship.

Looking further ahead – a once-in-a-lifetime challenge – The Great Wall of China Trek is taking place from 6 to 14 November 2021, offering participants an unforgettable adventure. Those who are interested are invited to attend an information evening on Tuesday 11 February 2020 to find out more but don’t hold back as registration is already open.

Nina Wearne said: “As well as being a mesmerising experience hiking along one of the most famous structures in the world, this is an opportunity to soak up China’s vast variations in landscape, culture, wildlife and heritage – not to mention cuisine! It’s a fantastic way to do something different and also make a difference.”

Details of these and all St Luke’s flagship fundraising events are available here.

Rugby is renowned for being one of the toughest sports with players showing opponents no mercy, but in Plymouth there’s a ladies’ team proving that when it comes to one of their own, they’re all heart – and they’re even losing their locks for charity to show how much they care. 

Teammates of Plymstock Albion Oaks RFC player Maria Ashurst braved a sponsored head shave at the club last Saturday 19 October in aid of our charity. We provided expert care for Maria’s husband Paul, helping to make his last days as dignified and comfortable as possible as we looked after him at Derriford Hospital and at then at home in St Budeaux before sadly, he passed away in September.

It was an emotional day for Maria, who has been part of the ladies team for over eight years. Bus driver of 17 years and snooker fan Paul was her biggest supporter, even encouraging her to meet up with teammates while he was ill, and – joined by St Luke’s Healthcare Assistant, Penny – she made the first snips to the hair of fellow players, Gail Randall and Paula Sims of Lower Ham, as they went under the razor.

The duo have already smashed their target of raising £1,000 to help us continue our vital service caring for terminally ill people across the community and supporting their families.

It was following Paul’s diagnosis of cancer and admission to Derriford Hospital that our specialist team there cared for him, managing his symptoms, relieving his pain and providing emotional support for him and his family. With the team’s help – which included the installation of a hospital bed at the couple’s house – Paul was then able to return home, where he wanted to be.

Maria and Paul between them have five children, 13 grandchildren and two step-great grandchildren, the youngest of whom was born just three days before Paul died.

Maria said: “Paul was a wonderful man, who lived with several health conditions and was open about his mental health difficulties because he knew talking about it would help others. He was a huge Elvis fan and the way he sang his songs would make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

“Seeing him so ill was very hard, but I can’t thank St Luke’s enough for making it possible for him to be at home with me so I could look after him. As well as making sure all the right equipment was in place, from the doctors and nurses to the physios and occupational therapists, they were there at our door or at the end of the phone whenever we needed them.

“The way they explained everything and how quickly they responded was really reassuring – in fact the Urgent Care team came out seven times in 24 hours. Quite simply, they were just ‘on it’ and I couldn’t be more grateful. They made a massive difference right when we needed them most.”

Both throughout Paul’s illness and since he died, Maria has been uplifted by the unwavering support of her teammates, whom she calls her ‘second family’.

Teammate Gail Randall said, “It’s a really big commitment to have your head shaved. I have been told it changes your appearance quite a lot and it takes two years for our hair to grow back to the same length.”

Overseeing the head shave was Lacey Keating from Chameleons hair salon in Plymstock, with the hair donated to the Little Princess Trust who provide real hair wigs to children and young people with hair loss, and funding vital research into childhood cancer.

Gail reflected on the day. “It has been very emotional for us, knowing how much St Luke’s helped Maria and Paul in their time in need, we couldn’t be more thankful.”

As well as the sponsored head shave, the club is honouring Paul with a memorial rugby match at 2pm on Sunday 24 November, when the ladies team will take on their opponents from Devizes in a league match.

Maria said: “The girls have been amazing – they’re always there and I can always pick up the phone to them when I need to have a rant or a cry. The wider club has fantastic too, and the memorial match for Paul will be very special. It’s a chance for friends and family to come because he did not want a funeral.

“I didn’t know the club had chosen to raise money for St Luke’s but I’m so glad they have because they’ve done so much for Paul, me and the rest of the family.”

You can still donate online via the Plymstock Albion Oaks Facebook page.

Always an annual highlight, our popular Open Gardens season once again delighted crowds of visitors between late March to mid-September, bringing in vital funds to help us keep delivering our much-needed service for patients and their families.

This year’s season was extra special, being the tenth in its history! And from it’s opening at spectacular Gnaton Hall on Mothering Sunday – which raised over £5,000 – to its close at beautiful Bowringsleigh Gardens, it provided many enjoyable, inspiring days out across Devon and Cornwall for green-fingered gurus and those who simply wanted to take time to smell the roses.

In honour of a decade of Open Gardens, this year’s brochure cover design was kindly created especially for St Luke’s by our Patron, much-loved artist Brian Pollard. The original painting was then raffled in aid of our charity, raising over £3,500 and with the lucky winner being from Harrow Barrow, one of the villages that participates in Open Gardens.

With its winning combination of gorgeous gardens big and small, picturesque walks and plant sales, plus the raffle, this season has raised £44,028 for our charity, bringing the total raised through Open Gardens’ ten-year history to over £370,000 – a blooming fantastic total that is making a big difference to those we care for at home, in hospital and at our specialist unit.

Such is the popularity of our horticultural extravaganza that garden owners are already signing up for our 2020 season, with 18 gardens confirmed, including two newcomer village walkabouts, at Shaw Prior and Halton Quay Gardens. Look out for another bespoke design for our brochure cover, too – Kingsbridge artist Jennifer Cooper is kindly doing the honours!

Wayne Marshall, Community Fundraiser and Open Gardens Co-ordinator, said: “What’s so fantastic about Open Gardens is the way it brings communities together in a big team effort to proudly showcase their lovely gardens for such a special cause. From the garden owners who generously throw open their gates to welcome visitors to the big-hearted bakers who create the delicious cakes on offer, I never cease to be encouraged by the swell of support I see for St Luke’s.

“A huge thank you to everyone who ensured our tenth year was such a big success. We really appreciate everything you do.”

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