Brightly coloured balloons lined the streets of Birmingham and Sutton Coldfield as families walked together in memory of loved ones and in support of John Taylor Hospice.
Nearly 150 people gathered at the Hollyfields Centre in Erdington to join the Birmingham hospice’s annual Family Walk and Fun Day. The ever-popular fundraising walk, now in its sixth year, raises money to provide care and support for people living with a terminal illness and their families.
This year, walkers had the choice of a pushchair and dog-friendly 4.5-mile walk or a more challenging 9-mile route. The event also offered entertainment for all ages with a Fun Day packed full of activities including bouncy castles, inflatable slides, raffles and stalls.
Setting the walkers off on their way was seven-year-old Louie O’Neill from Kingstanding. The young fundraiser – who has raised £1,000 for the hospice this year – was invited to cut the ribbon to signal the start of the charity walk.
Twickenham Primary School pupil Louie started raising money for John Taylor Hospice when he learned that his grandad has terminal cancer. Super supporter Louie has been busy challenging friends and family members to quizzes, holding a charity car wash, collecting money in supermarkets and organising a fundraising stall. He doesn’t plan to stop there and has big plans for the future – including hopes to host his own carnival.
Louie’s mum Charlotte O’Neill said: “There are seven of us here today – along with our dog Maui – to do the walk and watch Louie cut the ribbon. He’s so excited to have been asked to open the event as he feels like a celebrity! He’s been really looking forward to it and we’re so very proud of him.”
Joining the walk for the fifth year were the Smart family from Great Barr. Christopher Smart and his wife Selina walked the 4.5-mile route, with their two sons and their niece by their side, in memory of Christopher’s father Peter Smart.
“My dad had lung cancer and was only at the hospice for a very short time – two to three days,” said Christopher. “The hospice did an outstanding job and it became like a home from home for us. We come to the walk every year to say thank you to the hospice staff for what they did for us.”
Selina added: “Sometimes when we went to visit Peter we’d have 11 family members in the room at once and the nurses didn’t mind at all. Nothing was too much trouble for them, they were incredible and did an amazing job of looking after us all.”
Stepping out together in memory of someone very special were siblings Louise, Emma and Simon Carlo. They walked the longer route – for the third year in a row – to thank the hospice for the care they provided for their mum Sheila Carlo in 2015.
“She was a wonderful woman,” said Simon. “We received incredible support from John Taylor Hospice and our mum was so well looked after, as were we. She was treated with dignity and respect and the hospice staff relieved a lot of the pressure for us.”
Louise, who raised over £1,000 by running the Birmingham half marathon for #TeamJTH last year, said: “When you’ve never had any experience of a hospice you expect it to be a depressing place but it’s not like that at all at John Taylor. We were really struggling before the hospice stepped in to help and we don’t know what we’d have done without them. We come to the walk every year to say thank you for everything the hospice has done for our family.”
Katie Mitchell, John Taylor’s Head of Fundraising, said: “Thank you so much to everyone who joined us. We certainly didn’t let the dreary weather dampen our spirits and we had a wonderful day.
“The Family Walk is a special day for lots of people with many local families joining us year after year to celebrate the lives of their loved ones and to support the work of our hospice. We’re proud to have watched this event grow over the years and we’re extremely grateful to everyone for joining us.
“Many families tell us they come to the Family Walk and Fun Day to show support for the hospice and say thank you for the care their loved ones have received. We want people to know that being there at events really does make a big difference. That incredible support help us to raise vital funds and ensures we’re there for families – just like yours – when they need our care and support.”
For find out more about John Taylor Hospice and see what events are coming up visit www.johntaylorhospice.org.uk