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Did you know that nationally, 64% of charity trustees are men and that the average age of a trustee is 61? (Source)

We’re pleased to say our board is more diverse, but we’re striving to ensure it is truly representative of the community St Luke’s serves. That’s why – with it being national Trustees’ Week (4 – 8 November) – we not only want to thank the dedicated men and women who kindly give their skills and time free of charge to govern and guide our charity, but also highlight the opportunity for you to join them.

With the recent launch of our five-year strategy setting out our ambitious goals for the next half-decade, it’s a particularly exciting time to get involved as part of our Board of Trustees.

Trustee, Charles Hackett, said: “Being a trustee at St Luke’s supports my personal development but more importantly allows me to use my skills to help, in some way, the community in which I live.”

Being a trustee with St Luke’s can be rewarding for many reasons, including a sense of making a difference with a well-respected charity that touches the lives of local families to gaining new experiences and forging new relationships. (For an insight into our recent work, take a look at our latest impact report.)

Fiona Field, who sits on the Organisational Risk and Audit Committee and chairs the Health & Safety Committee, said: “I give about one day per month on average, this is divided between being a member of the board, chairing the health and safety committee, visiting teams across St Luke’s and taking part in some of the fundraising activities. I have regularly attended the Open Gardens in the summertime, sold programmes on Plymouth Hoe at the Firework Championships and walked the Elmer Trail. I am also the named trustee for both the Launceston and Tavistock retail shops so visit them both periodically, usually buying something on every visit as well!

“I find the work interesting and rewarding and I am always proud to talk to others about the brilliant work that everyone at St Luke’s does for such a worthy cause. I am keen that the services St Luke’s offers continue to be of the highest quality possible for our patients and their families locally.”

We’re seeking people with the knowledge, skills and motivation to help ensure that as St Luke’s evolves, we continue to make wise decisions that mean we can meet the challenges ahead, including reaching underrepresented groups who sometimes struggle to be heard.

As well as contributing to board meetings, you’ll have the opportunity to use your skills with a sub-committee that makes best use of your specific area of expertise. There’ll also be opportunities to further your experience through hearing from guest speakers and attending national conferences.

If you have a background in community development, including education, or in HR, we’re particularly keen to hear from you.

For more information, please contact Sarah Gore at sgore@stlukes-hospice.org.uk.

When news came that a patient at St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth who desperately wanted to spend precious time with her horse would see her wish fulfilled, the charity’s Communications and Marketing team sprang into action to ensure the horse’s visit to the specialist unit’s grounds to be with his loving owner was captured on video, just as she and her husband wanted. You can read the story here.

Viewed by over 500,000 people online, this moving film not only meant a great deal to the patient and her family, it perfectly illustrates the way the skills of the team dovetail to create impact for St Luke’s, telling our stories both internally to colleagues and externally, including to new audiences as well as loyal supporters.

As with all departments across our charity, it is always ‘patients first’ for this very busy team, led by Head of Communications and Marketing, Robert Maltby, who has been with the charity for over six years. No matter what other work is scheduled, they recognise that prioritising the needs of those in our care is an essential part of making sure they feel special despite their very difficult circumstances.

Robert said: “The film is a great example of the additional people skills involved in our work. It would be easy to think as an outsider a 30-second video is fairly quick and simple to produce. In reality, behind the scenes it took our team of four several days, with many interactions with the patient and their family, to build trust and deliver something that was both respectful and met everybody’s expectations. You are dealing with a situation that can change by the hour and re-purposing content for a multitude of platforms.”

“As a manager, I also have to ensure the health and well-being of my team are a priority, encouraging them to open up about the emotional challenges they may face when working on such an emotive story. It can be very emotionally challenging, but it is a real privilege to be involved with a family at such a personal and private time.”

 

Robert added, “While for many healthcare professionals there are support mechanisms in place, for example ‘clinical supervision’, St Luke’s should be praised for going over and above to support non-clinical staff. Often for every patient video or photo the wider pubic may come across, there are many more videos the team are involved in that stay private for the family. If support wasn’t in place it would ultimately take its toll.”

While the team of four spends much of their time collaborating to make sure the public and other stakeholders, from healthcare professionals to local authorities, are better informed about our vital service, through brochures, feature articles, media relations and social media, they also work hard to meet our charity’s need to engage donors and people willing to fundraise for us to ensure our work continues for generations to come.

From creating and delivering innovative, high-impact print and digital campaigns that help rally thousands to take part in our flagship events such as Tour de Moor and Men’s Day Out, to crafting creative content for Hospice Care Week and the Impact Report, Robert, Jesse (Graphic Designer), Rhianne (Digital Communications Officer)  and Paola (Communications Officer) take pride in producing work that not only boosts awareness but reflects well on the highly professional and compassionate organisation we are.

This commitment to high standards extends to St Luke’s retail network, too. Robert said: “With our chain of over 30 charity shops, as with all our print and digital materials, making sure St Luke’s branding is ‘on point’ is crucial. Our team’s work to build, enhance and protect it is an important part of maintaining the high profile and high esteem we hold in the community and attention to detail really matters. So, whether it’s shop signage, staff uniforms, web pages or leaflets, we are here to make sure the look is right.”

Read the brand and communications guidelines that are the bible behind a great Communications and Marketing team.

When you factor in that the team is also responsible for all St Luke’s social media across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn, key internal communications through the intranet and St Luke’s TV screens, and working with the media to deal with their queries and promote important news about our charity, you realise that they are masters of multi-tasking and time management!

The challenges?  “I think our communications challenges are the same as every other hospice in the UK, and that is around the public’s understanding of how hospice care has changed over the years,” said Robert. “People will associate hospice care with a building. That was St Luke’s over 35 years ago. Over 50% of our care is now delivered at home with only 5% in our traditional hospice building.  Taboos around talking about death and dying, and understanding we are about more than just cancer and go beyond serving the city of Plymouth also are communications barriers. However, we are making great progress to change perceptions with stakeholders by ensuring simple key communications messages flow through all our channels at every opportunity.”

What makes a good communications and marketing strategy? “I firmly believe the key to a successful hospice communications and marketing strategy is all about storytelling and a focus on the people. It is not necessarily about the ‘ask’ to get loyal stakeholder buy-in,” said Robert. “As many of my fellow hospice communications professionals will concur, there is a lot more behind the glossy fundraising posters and social media posts. From protecting the reputation of the charity to horizon scanning for new trends and technology, many of these daily tasks happen unnoticed. The future of digital communications is exciting. As regional media declines outside our major cities, becoming self sufficient with your digital content has the potential to reach far greater audiences than relying on a traditional media release”.

Robert concluded, “It’s definitely a challenge though because not only are there so many teams needing our support, we also get affected emotionally when we are meeting patients and their loved ones and telling their personal stories to the world – that’s part of what makes us human.”

Read the stories behind St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth.

It’s official – Plymouth has been recognised as the first compassionate city for those at end of life in England!

The accolade for Plymouth is from Public Health Palliative Care International in recognition of the commitment the city has made – and work already under way – towards meeting the objectives of the End of Life Compassionate City Charter. This charter provides a framework outlining social actions relating to death, dying and loss, to be delivered in partnership with communities and individuals for the benefit of everyone in the city.

A compassionate city or community is one that recognises that care for one another at times of crisis and loss is not simply a task solely for health and social services but is everyone’s responsibility. It was in May 2018 that St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth hosted the Plymouth, a Compassionate City: What can you do? conference attended by organisations ranging from schools and places of worship to solicitors, GP surgeries and voluntary groups and Plymouth City Council.

While acknowledging the great progress the city has made in creating compassionate communities for homeless and prison populations, key speaker Professor Allan Kellehear of Bradford University challenged Plymouth to do more, stating that: “Every day people die and hearts are broken. Death and dying are more than medical issues and caring for those affected is not just the role of the doctor and the chaplain. End of life care is everyone’s responsibility and we all have a practical role to play.”

He asked the city to adopt a public health approach to dealing with the lasting impacts of death, dying and loss on individuals in our city and to implement the End of Life Compassionate City Charter. Having a city-wide end of life network working in partnership with the City Council, as well as other public bodies and local charities, will ensure Plymouth is a city that does not shy away from the ‘taboo’ subjects of death, dying and bereavement but talks openly about them.

Across the city, people will be more informed and compassionate towards those facing end of life, or experiencing loss and bereavement. Delegates demonstrated overwhelming support for the charter and the creation of an end of life network for Plymouth and the surrounding communities that is made up of individuals, groups and organisations working together to deliver the charter’s aims.

Councillor Kate Taylor, Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Care, said: “The Compassionate City Charter for end of life care gives us all a framework to work towards. The challenges it will help us meet are particularly pertinent to Plymouth as a growing city with a rising number of over-65s. There are increasing demands on health and social care services as care becomes more complex and end of life needs grow compounded by a national funding crisis in social care. Death and dying are more than medical issues and caring for those affected is not just the role of doctors, we all have a role to play. We fully support this approach and will work with our community to turn aspiration into action.”

Ruth Harrell, Director of Public Health for Plymouth, said: “Everyone agrees with the need to have a more compassion approach to those at end of life but how do we make it a reality across our city? By taking a public health approach to end of life care, we can give a voice to all those affected by death, dying, bereavement and loss and work together to create a city that does not shy away from their needs but provides a compassionate collective response.”

CEO of St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth, Steve Statham added: “We have a key role to play in supporting our community and networks in times of crisis and loss. This charter is about how we can work together towards extending the support we give to people at a most difficult time in their life”.

The initiative which is being co-ordinated and led by Gail Wilson, Deputy Director of Clinical Services at St Luke’s, said: “Across the city and the wider communities there are many examples of individuals and groups going the extra mile to support people during times of sickness, bereavement and loss, from providing a listening ear to helping with practical things such as walking the dog and collecting shopping.

“I have been amazed by what various organisations and individuals across the city have achieved in the past 18 months, with the support of the compassionate community team at St Luke’s .This is really a great start but there is much more to do, so I would encourage anybody who wants to be involved to sign up to the network and join us, so together we can create compassionate networks where we live and work so that no-one at end of life or experiencing bereavement and loss feels isolated or alone.”

For more information about the EOL Compassionate City Charter click here.

First impressions matter and at our specialist unit at Turnchapel, there’s a team member who not only makes sure everyone who walks through our door receives a friendly welcome when they visit a loved one in the evening, or stay overnight, but can empathise with our hardworking clinical team, too.

When Andy Campbell first joined St Luke’s 32 years ago it was as a Healthcare Assistant, a role he later combined with his job as Support Officer with our charity until two years ago when he decided to focus on the latter, securing the building after the ‘day’ staff have gone home and doing much more besides.

Not only does Andy cover reception duties at Turnchapel during his regular 6.30 – 10.30pm shift, taking calls and greeting visitors, he ensures that both individuals and entire families spending time with their loved ones are comfortable, recognising that it’s often the ‘small’ things that can make a big difference to them at such a sad time.

Andy said: “I know our patients are looked after impeccably, so I see my role as keeping an eye out for those visiting them, who are often struggling even if they seem pretty calm on the surface.

“Whether they’re at Turnchapel for an hour or staying consecutive nights, there’s always something we can do to make them feel as relaxed as possible. Sometimes, just a friendly chat and a bit of banter is all it takes to show them they matter, while at others it’s about being practical and ordering their favourite takeaway so they can eat what they like while they’re here.”

So, from laying the tables ready for a family to enjoy a meal together to making up z-beds so they can stay close to their loved one through the night, Andy’s shifts revolve around the needs of our visitors so that they leave feeling better than when they arrived. Of all the families he has met in his many years with St Luke’s, it’s a particular mother and daughter who stand out in his memory.

Andy explains: “When a young woman who’d been receiving care was approaching the end of her life, she kept saying how much she desperately wanted to get a particular tattoo. Despite lots of phone calls, no local tattooists came forward to help so I contacted a friend of mine who’s properly qualified. He responded quickly and expertly created the exact tattoo she wanted, waiving his usual fee.

“Seeing how much it meant to this lady, who passed away just three days later, is something I’ve never forgotten. I know getting her wish helped her pass away peacefully and it gave her mum a lot of comfort, too.

“Being thoughtful and kind doesn’t cost us anything, but it can be priceless to the families we help. That’s why I always want to work for St Luke’s.”

 

With the help of a generous grant from Hospice UK, St Luke’s has been able to kick-start a compassionate community in Kingsbridge, Devon. The initiative ensures that no matter how far out you live, support will be available for those at end of life and those caring for them.

“I’m thrilled so many people have come forward to support me and my partner. The thought alone has made me feel less isolated and alone.”

As an older person living in a rural town, trying to care for your terminally ill partner while living with your own health conditions, you can easily feel forgotten, especially with no family close by to help. But – thanks to the innovative way St Luke’s is using grant funding awarded by Hospice UK – we’ve been making an important difference in the South Hams town of Kingsbridge, including to the 71-year-old lady quoted above.

Steve Statham, CEO at St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth said: “Thanks to significant funding from Hospice UK, we are breaking down taboos around death and dying and empowering people local people in the rural town of Kingsbridge, Devon to put compassion at the heart of the community so that no-one feels left behind. In a location like this, where it can be more difficult for people to access all kinds of services, including end of life care, local people, voluntary groups and businesses are coming together to show kindness and give practical support to terminally ill people and those caring for them who would otherwise risk isolation and loneliness.

“It isn’t just the financial help from Hospice UK that makes a difference though. The national platform the charity provides through its campaigns raises awareness of the challenges our sector faces, helps us recruit and retain staff, and highlights the ongoing need for Government investment in our services.”

Earlier this year, we reported on the appointment of Robyn Newport as St Luke’s Community Network Co-ordinator for Kingsbridge and surrounding areas, where our At Home team looks after terminally ill people nearing end of life, and supports their families.

Over the past ten months, Robyn has been busy getting to know residents, local business owners, voluntary groups and healthcare services to get more insight into what matters to them when it comes to terminal illness, looking after someone with a life-limiting diagnosis, and how the community has been impacted by loss.

The listening ears and helping hands of the Compassionate Friends trained have helped shape the Compassionate End of Life Care Community in Kingsbridge, which – being in a rural area – is all the more in need since those living there can find it harder to access services of all kinds, including the expert care that’s so vital when your time is running short.

Robyn said: “St Luke’s is committed to coming alongside the communities we serve to realise the potential of informal networks and develop more effective ways to provide support that enhances wellbeing, prevents loneliness and isolation and increases choice for people at the end of their life, so they can die in familiar surroundings with those they love.”

“It’s a been a real privilege getting to know so many people, and it’s clear there’s so much care and compassion in this area. We now have over 75 Compassionate Friends trained across the town – people who lend a helping hand or listening ear to friends and neighbours who have a terminal illness or are affected by loss. We also have Compassionate Friend Champions running awareness sessions and co-ordinators who can help families to organise additional support from local Compassionate Friends.

“Our training is helping people to talk more openly and honestly, helping to break down the taboos around death, dying and bereavement, and bust the unhelpful myths that surround them. They’re seeing how listening and having more compassionate conversations within their own circles, and doing small things to help people at times of crisis or loss, such as making them a meal or doing their shopping, can make a big difference.”

Local businesses are also stepping up to help customers and clients who might be in need of some support. Among them are HAC Hairdressing, Kingsbridge Youth for Christ, and Blooming Organised, a decluttering service.

Robyn has also come alongside Kingsbridge Community College, which is working towards becoming a Compassionate School. With her input, the school is developing and embedding bereavement policies and procedures, electing sixthformers as Compassionate Buddies, and an additional 220 Year 9 students have attended a Compassionate Buddies awareness session, ensuring no student facing loss feels left behind.

In the coming months, Robyn is looking to train more Compassionate Friends, Champions and Co-ordinators in the South Hams area and will continue to grow Compassionate Networks around those with a terminal diagnosis, as well as their loved ones. In addition, she is also working to launch the first Compassionate Café in the Kingsbridge area.

If you, or someone you know living in the area, could benefit from the support, or you would like to receive training so you can help, please contact St Luke’s Education team at education@stlukes-hospice.org.uk.

Bidders snap up a unique piece of art to be a part of something special that will leave a legacy for families across Plymouth and surrounding areas.

On the evening of 9 October, 40 of the enchanting elephant sculptures that have delighted tens of thousands this summer as part of Elmer’s Big Parade – each featuring a unique design by a talented artist – generated a staggering £323,750 for St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth. This is the equivalent of providing over 350 families with hospice care at home.

Led by professional auctioneer Paul Keen of Plymouth Auction Rooms, the star Elmer of the night, by Plymouth-based artist Brian Pollard was snapped up by the Miller family from Plymouth and finally went for a jaw-dropping £36,000.

Elmer – The Symphony of the Spirit – artist: Andy Jack Nash

Bought by Andy and Naomi Ibbs.

Andy’s retirement day from his position as Chief Executive of Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust coincided with the auction and he wanted to use some of his lump sum to help St Luke’s. He and Naomi, who is Chair of Governors at Woodlands School in Plymouth, wanted this particular Elmer as music is a very important part of their lives. Their Elmer is going on a journey to the South of France, where it will live in the little wood by their holiday home and be enjoyed by their grandchildren.

Naomi Ibbs said: “We are so aware that St Luke’s is needed by so many families and the difference the charity makes to them is priceless, so this was an amazing opportunity to show our support. We’re absolutely thrilled to have won the auction and can’t wait to see our grandchildren enjoying our Elmer when they visit us in France. It will be such fun seeing their faces!”

Elmer – Britain’s Ocean City – artist: Dave Smith

Bought by Darren Burt

Bought by Darren Burt of Plymouth, whose wife Tracy died suddenly in June this year, aged just 39. Tracy was mum to children Brittany, Dylan, Darcy and Cody, and had seen the Elmers and set her heart on this one, so Darren was determined to fulfil her wish.

Darren was at the auction with daughter Darcy, aged 7, who was the one raising her hand for the bid. Their auction number allocated was 5 – which happened to be Tracy’s lucky number! This was such a poignant night for Darren as he remembered Tracy. The Elmer will take pride of place in the front garden of the family home in Eggbuckland.

Darren said: “When Tracy died suddenly, I didn’t just lose my wife but my best friend, too. Living without her is really hard and we miss her so much every day.

“Being at the auction with Darcy tonight has been very emotional, but I wasn’t going to leave until I had won the Elmer Tracy set her heart from the moment she saw it in the summer. Winning the auction means so much, and our Elmer is going to take pride of place because my wife was such a special person.”

The charity spends £5.7million a year on patient care giving its service free of charge to those who need it at home, in hospital or at its specialist unit at Turnchapel. Funds generated at the auction will help ensure St Luke’s expert team is there to make a very challenging time that little bit easier by ensuring dignity for patients and making them as comfortable as possible while also providing emotional, spiritual and practical support for them and their loved ones.

Steve Statham, Chief Executive of St Luke’s said: “It has been wonderful seeing so many people following Elmer’s Big Parade, enjoying a free family day out. Along the way, they’ve been learning more about the importance of high-calibre bespoke care for people at end of life and the difference St Luke’s makes.

“We never forget that it’s the support from our community that enables our vital service to continue to make a difference. On the auction night you were behind us and stepped up to the mark to make us a force for good when patients and families need us most.

“I am truly humbled by your support and thank you on behalf of our staff, volunteers, patients and their families.

“Two years ago we set out with an aim to ensure this project delivered a special legacy for St Luke’s beyond the trail and our Grand Charity Auction. Elmer’s Big Parade has delivered beyond what we could have ever dreamed of.”

Elmer’s Big Parade Plymouth sponsored by Stagecoach South West, supported by Wild in Art, Andersen Press and PL1 Events.

“Look what they’re doing for me – this is five-star treatment.”

These aren’t the words of someone being pampered in the surroundings of a luxury spa, but a special lady in the care of St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth, whose service is holistic, helping their terminally ill patients create special memories with loved ones and focussing on what matters to them rather than just what’s the matter with them.

For Tracey Dunne from Dartmoor, who is in her 50s and receiving the charity’s care at its specialist unit at Turnchapel, this has included ensuring her husband Tim can spend as much time as possible at her side and even going the extra mile to reunite her with Malone, her beloved 17-year-old horse.

Recognising both the comfort animals can bring and the importance of making memories when time is running short, St Luke’s worked with the big-hearted stables at Buckland Monochorum to enable Tracey, who has cancer, to spend precious time with her loyal steed in the grounds of the unit.

Out in the sunshine, Tracey found solace as Malone nuzzled her hand, providing comfort as only an old, trusted friend can. But that’s not all because back inside Tracey’s room Betty the Budgie, Tracey and Tim’s much-loved pet, was waiting. Their feathered friend has been made welcome by St Luke’s as part of creating a comfortable home from home for the couple at such a challenging time.

Married for almost 30 years, Tracey and Tim met in the 1980s when Tracey spent a year at Tim’s employer, Taylor, Lane and Creber, as part of her degree in building surveying. Tracey went on to become a well-respected buildings conservation consultant whose work, including for the MoD, has taken her far and wide. Away from work, she has always loved being outside, especially on Dartmoor, enjoying nature and getting muddy. She is a gifted artist, too, often drawing from photographs taken by Tim.

Tim said: “Tracey is so talented, kind and always thinking of others – one of the many memories I treasure is of her in pink pyjamas, doing a charity abseil down the Civic Centre.

“While we’ve played the St Luke’s lottery for years because we’re aware of the outstanding work of the charity – and have often joked that the guy who collects our subs has a knack for calling when I’m down to the last fiver in my pocket – we never guessed it would be us needing the service they provide.”

With Tracey having been looked after by St Luke’s at Derriford Hospital, at home and at the specialist unit, Tim has witnessed the charity’s compassionate care in action with staff taking the time to get to know the couple, sensitively explain treatment and make Tracey as comfortable as possible, paying close attention to what matters to her.

He said: “When you hear the term ‘hospice care’ it is frightening and, while the fear doesn’t go away completely, I’m in awe of the way St Luke’s has been alongside us throughout – it’s given us both such an overriding sense of peace.

“When Tracey needed care at home, nurse Derek came to visit. It wasn’t just his specialist knowledge that helped but his empathy, too. He had a really good rapport with Tracey and knew just how to encourage her to describe her pain and other symptoms so that he could expertly manage them.

“Then, when Tracey needed to be in hospital, the St Luke’s team on Brent Ward always treated us with the utmost respect and went out of their way, despite many other demands on their time.

“Even with such reassuring experience of St Luke’s, the realisation that Tracey needed to be admitted to the hospice building felt daunting. It’s not what you’d expect at all though. In a sense there are many parallels with our home because it’s bright, airy and enjoys stunning views. It’s been comforting for both of us that I’ve been able to stay by Tracey’s side, and from the nurses to the cleaning staff and receptionists, kindness is everywhere.

“Tracey and I always speak openly with each other and with her receiving such expert care, we’ve had the space to have difficult but necessary conversations. As she wanted, we have even been able to discuss her wishes for her funeral.

“From the beautiful gardens to the wonderful way they’ve enabled Betty to be with us and helped reunite Tracey with Malone, I will always be so grateful to St Luke’s and remember the big smile they put on my beautiful wife’s face.”

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.”

Having delighted tens of thousands of people this summer, getting them out on foot across our city ‘hunting’ for the 40 enchanting Elmer sculptures that made up Elmer’s Big Parade, Devon’s biggest public art event of the year is set to go out with style!

Our mammoth mob is not going quietly – in fact, there’s a three-day celebration on the horizon! The mustn’t-miss, last-chance opportunity to get up close to the 40 full-size Elmers and the 25 ‘mini’ sculptures painted by local schools is happening between Friday 4 and Sunday 6 October at Herd HQ in the former Toys R Us store at Western Approach.

After this, the elephants’ trunks will be packed as they head off to their new homes having gone under the hammer at our Grand Charity Auction to raise money for our compassionate care.

As well as providing a free family friendly activity, our mammoth mob – each one individually painted by a talented artist – have been on a very important mission, raising awareness of our charity, the importance of the high-calibre end of life care we provide and the difference it makes to our community.

The upcoming Farewell Weekend will give people the opportunity to meet the artists involved in the project, including internationally renowned Brian Pollard, Patron of St Luke’s, and is an opportunity for people who might have missed the trail itself, not been able to see all the sculptures, or simply want to see Elmer’s chunky chums again and bring visiting family this time.

Adrian Carey, Project Manager for Elmer’s Big Parade, said: “We have been blown away by the success of Elmer’s Big Parade, which has been one of the most popular trails of its kind in the UK.

“Seeing so many families out discovering the sculptures has been heart-warming and we’re pleased to have provided them with a free, fun activity that also highlighted the vital end of life care St Luke’s provides. Our Farewell Weekend is an exciting opportunity to see all the sculptures together, take photographs and – if they’d like – snap up Elmer merchandise. We look forward to welcoming them to Herd HQ!”

With demand for places expected to be high, everyone who purchases a ticket will be allocated a one-hour session at Herd HQ. Tickets are priced £5 each for adults and £3 for under-16s, with free entry for children under two. Opening times are: Friday 4 October: 12 – 7pm, Saturday 5 October: 9am – 7pm, and Sunday 6 October: 9am – 4pm. The first session of each day is reserved for families of children and adults with autism or related conditions who might require more comfort. This ‘quiet session’ will feature subdued lighting and low music and have minimal noise. These times are restricted to 100 people and may also suit wheelchair users.

The VIP Grand Charity Auction is taking place on the evening of 9 October, also at Herd HQ, where a celebrity host will join the man wielding the hammer, Paul Keen of Plymouth Auction Rooms. It is hoped each Elmer auctioned will raise at least £4,000 for St Luke’s to help us continue our vital service.

Paul said: “Over the years we’ve sold a number of items for St Luke’s at the auction rooms, so I wasn’t that surprised when we were asked to do this special auction, but I didn’t really expect it to be as impressive as it is. St Luke’s do so much in providing compassionate care in Plymouth, that they need as much support as they can, and ultimately, it’s financial support. This auction is on such a high platform, and it gives us the opportunity to raise as much as we possibly can.”

Steve Statham, Chief Executive of St Luke’s, said: “Almost everyone in our city is likely to require St Luke’s compassionate care one day, or be close to someone who does. That’s why we aim to attract substantial bids for these unique pieces of art that will help us continue to be there for families, enabling them to make the most of every moment together when time is running short.

“We want Elmer’s Big Parade to leave a special legacy beyond the trail and our Grand Auction is a fantastic opportunity to be part of that.”

To find out more about the Farewell Weekend and the Grand Charity Auction, please visit elmerplymouth.co.uk/events.

Celebrating our tenth anniversary, we have presented the public with some beautiful gardens this year as part of our Open Gardens scheme.

As the season comes to a close, we are pulling out all the stops this Sunday for one final garden before we say goodbye to the summer sun. Bowringsleigh Gardens near Kingsbridge is set in ten acres of private established gardens hidden in a peaceful valley of outstanding natural beauty. The gardens are home to a stunning collection of hydrangeas, and many rare trees are to be found in the two large arboretums which are best viewed in September as the leaves turn colour.

Open Gardens Coordinator at St Luke’s, Wayne Marshall, said: “At this time of year the garden is full of colour with plants that are rare to come by. This is great opportunity to explore not only the gorgeous gardens, but also see the house that looks over the gardens is a 15th century listed building with a rich and significant history. This is an enjoyable and inspiring way for our supporters to raise vital funds for our free unique and compassionate care that is provided to patients and their families at home, at Derriford and at our specialist unit at Turnchapel.”

Refreshments and plant sales are available. There’s also a chance to enter the Open Gardens annual raffle to win a framed original canvas of our brochure cover by local artist, Brian Pollard.

Bowringsleigh Garden will be open on Sunday 15 September between 2pm and 5pm. Admission costs just £5. Parking is available and wheelchair and pushchair access is available although limited in some areas. The garden is located at Bowringsleigh, Kingsbridge, Devon TQ7 3LL. Following the orange arrows from Bantham Cross towards Salcombe. www.stlukes-hospice.org.uk/opengardens