The family of a Lichfield grandad who spent his last days at St Giles Hospice is calling on supporters to join a new Solstice Stroll fundraiser for the local charity. Walkers will be on the march to support St Giles in June despite the coronavirus pandemic forcing the cancellation of its annual Solstice Walk.

Although the hugely-popular walk through the heart of Lichfield has been called off because of COVID-19 social distancing measures, organisers have now launched the Solstice Stroll event, allowing groups of up to six people to raise funds together for the hospice’s vital work.

Laura Fitzgerald, from Tamworth, who took part in her first Solstice Walk in 2010 while she was being treated for Hodgkins Lymphoma, was hoping to take part in her third Solstice Walk this year and is now calling on people to support the Solstice Stroll. Her grandad, Doug Brown, aged 88, from Lichfield, died from lung cancer after receiving end-of-life care St Giles Hospice in Whittington last year (2019). Weeks later Laura, her sister Sarah Brown, mum Julie Brown, godmother Cathy Calnan and friends Lucy Hill and Amy Hawksworth formed “Team Dougie” to do the Solstice Walk in his memory. Laura is pictured below (to the right) with grandad Doug and sister Sarah.

Laura said: “The first time I did the Solstice Walk I was really ill with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, so it was nice to be able to take part in an event with my family and friends out in the open air. Then last year we wanted to thank St Giles for looking after my grandad and to support them for the outstanding work that they do.

‘From the moment Grandad arrived at St Giles he was like a different person. Even when he was really ill, if he wanted to go outside they would fetch us a wheelchair and help him to get out onto the terrace in the fresh air and sunshine, which he really loved.

“We will be forever grateful to St Giles for what they gave to Grandad. They allowed us to spend as much time as we could with him and helped make the time he had left so very special.’

The Solstice Stroll encourages supporters to walk either 10km or 10,000 steps in their own time and at their own pace – and although the Solstice Walk has traditionally been a women-only event, this year the stroll will be open to everyone, with special treats for everyone who passes their individual fundraising targets.

Elinor Eustace, Director of Fundraising at St Giles Hospice, said:

‘The Solstice Walk is our largest and most popular fundraising event of the year and we were so sorry we had to disappoint everyone by cancelling it because of the COVID-19 pandemic – however, safety has to come first.

Each year the Solstice Walk brings hundreds of people together to remember and celebrate the lives of loved ones in support of their local hospice, so we hope that the Solstice Stroll will give our community the chance to still get involved in a safe way and at a safe distance.

Anyone can take part in the Solstice stroll – individuals, family household groups and small groups of six people or fewer, and it’s a fantastic way for all the family to enjoy the summer evenings while getting exercise and fresh air.

And as usual we want our midsummer event to be as fun and colourful as ever – so we’d love to see everyone in their traditional fairy wings, tiaras and tutus or other fancy dress, which you can share with us on social media using the hashtag #SolsticeSelfie.’

The Solstice Stroll has been launched as part of ‘Katie’s Appeal’, the charity’s urgent response to the coronavirus crisis. St Giles shops have had to close, events have been cancelled and hospice income has almost dried up – at a time when there is a continuing and ever-growing need for its services.

As only around a third of its funding comes from Government, the hospice relies upon donations and fundraising to raise the £850,000 it needs each month to fund its care services for some of the most vulnerable people in the community.

Over the last 13 years the Solstice Walk, which was due to take place on Saturday, 20th June in 2020, has raised more than a million pounds to support the work of St Giles.

Everyone who signs up to take part in the Solstice stroll will get a digital fundraising pack and a dedicated member of the hospice fundraising team to support them, as well as special goodies as they hit their individual fundraising targets.

Supporters raising the £56 needed to fund two hours of one-to-one nursing care will receive a medal; the £178 needed to fund a visit to a patient in their own home by the Hospice at Home team will earn a St Giles piggybank and pen; and anyone raising the £676 needed to pay for 24 hours of care at the end of a patient’s life will receive a St Giles t-shirt, water bottle, fairy wings and a wand.

Elinor added:

‘We’ve never needed you more than we need you today and your support will allow us to continue our vital work in your local community – if your donations stop, we stop. So sign up and spread the word, set your sights to the sunset, raise sponsorship and make your steps matter.’

For more information or to register for the Solstice Stroll visit www.stgileshospice.com/solsticestroll

People can also support St Giles Hospice by donating to Katie’s Appeal, by making a one-off or regular monthly donation online at www.stgileshospice.com/katiesappeal or by calling 01543 432538, or by sending a cheque made payable to ‘St Giles Hospice’ to Katie’s Appeal, St Giles Hospice, Fisherwick Road, Whittington, Lichfield WS14 9LH.

Content supplied by the Marketing Team at St Giles Hospice