A record number of people have signed up for ellenor’s Walkathon in September – which will see supporters walk 26 miles from Tower Bridge back to ellenor Gravesend. Many of them will be walking in memory of someone special.
Local man, Stewart Beachem – who runs New Images hairdressing salon in Gravesend with his wife Hannah – took part in the walk back in 2008 and says: “It was a challenge but it was a really friendly and sociable event.”
Stewart was walking in memory of Geoff Farman – Hannah’s Grandfather. The couple – with the support of their loyal customers – have been fundraising for ellenor since Geoff was cared for by the charity 20 years ago and have raised more than £8000 to date.
Hannah has organised a couple of discos, which each raised around £1000 each and, last year, she celebrated her 40th birthday and asked friends and family to donate to ellenor, rather than giving her gifts – and more than £1000 was raised from donations alone.
For many years they have arranged a Christmas raffle for ellenor at New Images – where they met 25 years ago - which has always captured the attention of regulars.
“Nearly everyone who comes in knows somebody who has been cared for by ellenor,” says Hannah, who adds that among their regular customers is Cameron Edmonds, cared for by ellenor’s Children’s Hospice Care team and his mother Lisa.
Since her Grandfather was cared for at ellenor Gravesend, Hannah has known other people who have been looked after by the charity, including her best friend’s Mother, Pat Plum.
“What I’ve always noticed about the hospice is that it’s not a sad place,” says Hannah. “I used to go and sit with Pat a lot near the end and then I’d join Pat’s family and friends in the lounge for a cup of tea and soon we’d be smiling, thinking about her and the wonderful memories we had.”
Hannah’s Grandfather, Geoff, spent a while at ellenor Gravesend after being diagnosed with cancer of the spine and the prostate.He was unable to walk – but did have a motorised wheelchair.
“This meant he could get around the hospice a bit – although one particular day, he decided to venture outside,” she says with a smile. “He ran out of battery on the Morrison’s roundabout and had to be towed back!”
Geoff’s wife, Violet, had died a couple of years before he was taken ill. They had met during the war – during which time Geoff was torpedoed twice - and were devoted to each other. When she died, Hannah says Geoff ‘was lost’ without her.
“My Grandmother used to make prawn cocktail and create her own special sauce, which was a particular favourite of Grandad’s,” says Hannah. “So, when he was in the hospice, I’d make some of that special prawn cocktail and take it in for him. The staff encouraged me and were also happy for me to cut his hair – which he enjoyed too. These little things made such a difference.”
Geoff’s working life had seen him employed by Everards, working on tugs on The Thames and, at one point, restoring the Cutty Sark in Greenwich. Both Geoff and Violet’s sons, Trevor and Derek, followed in their father’s footsteps and went to work for Everards too. Hannah remembers that he also loved his garden and has special memories of days out with him and her Nan as a child.
Hannah says that New Images and her family will continue raising money for ellenor. There will be the usual Christmas raffle, while Hannah – who enjoyed doing a skydive last year – has set herself the challenge of undertaking another one for ellenor in 2017.
If you want to challenge yourself for ellenor, visit: www.ellenor.org/events