For those who have driven, walked or cycled past St Elizabeth Hospice’s Heath Road shop in Ipswich throughout August, there has been a display with a difference on show, in the form of a brand new Pronovias wedding dress.
This stunning dress, as well as being eye-catching and an unusual item for the independent Suffolk charity to sell in its shops, has a touching story behind its donation by Sinéad Pryke to the hospice, which improves life for people in East Suffolk, Great Yarmouth and Waveney living with a progressive or life-limiting illness.
Last year Sinéad, who is originally from Woodbridge, and her then-fiancé, George Rudland, were planning their wedding during the uncertain times brought by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Working as a pharmacist at King’s College in London, Sinéad was keen to find a suitable dress for winter and summer, with ever-changing government restrictions meaning there was a high risk their wedding could be delayed.
During this time, her sister spotted the Pronovias bridal shop on New Bond Street, London, offering a limited number of free wedding dresses to NHS workers as a show of gratitude for the work of the NHS during the unprecedented demands brought by the Covid-19 outbreak.
“I was lucky enough to win one of the dresses on offer, which was worth over £1,200. It really is stunning and has sleeves as well, which was ideal for me in case our wedding had to take place in winter.
“However, unfortunately, the dress was a little too big, and although I offered to donate it back to the shop, they said it was mine to keep. As a result, I decided to give the dress to St Elizabeth Hospice as they had given such fantastic care to my Dad and my family towards the end of his life.”
Sinéad’s father, John Pryke, passed away on 23rd March 2021, diagnosed with lung cancer and a tumour on the brain. After his diagnosis, he received care from Macmillan Cancer Support and Ipswich Hospital before coming under St Elizabeth Hospice’s community team.
Nurses visited John in his home twice a day, five days a week, to support Sinéad’s mum, Anne, and provide pain management for John to make him comfortable. Through providing this support and additional equipment, such as a wheelchair, John was able to attend Sinéad and George’s wedding on 13th March.
Held at the family home, the intimate ceremony saw John walk with Sinéad before she took her vows and delivered his father of the bride speech.
“It was super special, and we were lucky to have such an intimate ceremony. It was just perfect for us,” said Sinéad.
“Dad’s speech was very funny, and it was so nice to be together as a family, especially after the difficult times brought by Covid-19 and Dad’s diagnosis.
“The hospice nurses were like our little guardian angels. They were just amazing and were a very reassuring presence during such a stressful time. They went above and beyond to make sure Dad was comfortable and looking after us as a family. It really was a holistic care service.
“Nothing was too much to ask, and they always had time to help us, and we were very keen to give something back to them to say ‘thank you’. So when I realised I had the opportunity to donate the new wedding dress, I knew immediately I wanted it to go to the hospice, in the hope it helps raise vital funds for their service and also helps make somebody else’s special day extra special.”
The wedding dress will remain at Heath Road for the opportunity to try on before bids are made via the hospice’s eBay shop – www.ebay.co.uk/itm/363529870500.
To contact St Elizabeth Hospice’s Heath Road shop, call 01473 715 187 or visit the shop at Units 1-3 Heath Road, Ipswich – opening times 9am-4pm, Monday to Saturday.
To find out more about St Elizabeth Hospice, www.stelizabethhospice.org.uk.