Families and friends wish hospice a happy birthday

Families gathered at the start  point, the Ramada Hotel Sutton Coldfield

Families gathered at the start point, the Ramada Hotel Sutton Coldfield

Local people turned out in force on Sunday to take part in John Taylor Hospice’s annual Birthday Walk event.

A train of colourful balloons weaved its way around Erdington as around 250 people put their best foot forward in memory of loved ones and in support of the hospice.

Debbie Veitch from Sutton Coldfield was walking for the third year in a row. She covered nine miles – the longer of two available routes – with a group of friends.

“I’ve really been looking forward to today,” said Debbie, aged 57. “It’s always a great atmosphere and walking is a nice way to give something back.”

Debbie’s dad Ray Crook had bowel cancer and received care from John Taylor staff both in his home and at the hospice. Sunday’s Birthday Walk event also marked the third anniversary since Ray’s death, aged 84.

“The hospice was fantastic to my family during the last months of my dad’s life, how they cared for him and also the counselling service that helped my mum. I feel like I have a lot to thank them for,” said Debbie.

Among those completing the 3.5 mile route was 44-year-old Lawrence Ducille, together with no fewer than 15 members of his family including his sister Rebecca and his nephews Finlay, aged 17, and Marlin, aged 6.

Lawrence’s mum Hazel Ducille died at John Taylor Hospice in August this year. She was 67 years old.

“It’s only been two months since I lost my mum, so I didn’t know what it would feel like to come today,” he said. “But it’s nice to be here with others who’ve been through the same thing as us.

“John Taylor helped my family through a really difficult time. They looked after Mum really well and made every day count. It really was brilliant, everything they did for her. She loved it there.”

Lawrence Ducille (left) with  sister Rebecca and her children Finlay, 17, and Marlin, 6

Lawrence Ducille (left) with sister Rebecca and her children Finlay, 17, and Marlin, 6

As the Ducille family gathered to prepare for the walk, Lawrence’s auntie, Cristel Haddon, was quite literally putting on a brave face.

“She was first in line to get her face painted,” added Lawrence with a smile. “And we’ve all got balloons too. Today really feels like a happy day. We’re saying a big happy birthday to the team behind the name John Taylor Hospice.”

The hospice, which has provided care in the city for more than 100 years, became an independent social enterprise four years ago. It has hosted the Birthday Walk event every October as a way of bringing local people together.

Event organiser Liz Wood said: “Getting out in the fresh air is a great way for people to spend time together and support a cause close to their hearts. It was really moving to see so many people getting so much enjoyment from the day.

“We’d like to say a big thank you to friends, families and neighbours of the hospice who came along to help us celebrate our fourth birthday and of course, thank you to all of our volunteers who helped to make it so special.

“We couldn’t have hoped for a better day for it – the sun was definitely shining on Birmingham on Sunday.”

For more information on the hospice visit www.johntaylorhospice.org.uk.