TWO inspirational Ripon Grammar School students have encouraged their whole school to get behind a huge fundraising drive for the local hospice which cared for their fathers before they died.
Louise Taylor’s father Chris, 54, a builder, and Grace Withyman’s father Jim, 49, a barrister, died in St Michael’s Hospice, Harrogate last year. Both men had been suffering from cancer.
The girls gave a moving assembly presentation to the whole school to explain how the hospice helped them and their families, urging students to raise money for this worthy cause during Charity Week, which starts on October 22.
Every year RGS raises more than £10,000 with a series of popular events including fun performances, quizzes, cake sales and a non-uniform day. Now both staff and students, who voted overwhelmingly to support St Michael’s this year, are hoping they will raise more than ever.
Deputy head girl Louise, 17, from Grewelthorpe, near Ripon, explained how staff at the hospice gave her whole family the vital care and support they needed when her father, who died in December last year, was desperately ill.
“Everyone, from the nurses to the palliative care consultant, was outstanding. You always know there is someone there to speak to if you feel you need to,” said Louise, who has a younger brother, Nicholas, aged 15.
“It’s not like a hospital, it felt more like a home, with a family room and nice sofas, and beds for us to stay. And the chef makes the most amazing biscuits.”
Grace, 16, from Ripon, agreed: “I think it is really important to raise money and I hope we can also raise awareness about what a hospice really is, I wasn’t sure what it was when my dad went in and I want people to know about the incredible work they do.”
She described the care her father received before he died, in January last year, as amazing: “In that time when the worst has happened to your family, you feel like nothing could make this time better. But St Michael’s does make it better. It is bitter sweet, but I still have nice memories of my dad there.
“Unlike hospital, in St Michael’s the rooms were gorgeous, with big windows and fireplaces and we were able to take him outside to look out over green, open spaces, which was beautiful.
“We tried to do as much stuff as we could together. Over Christmas, we had presents and crackers and the chefs even made me and my mum a special vegetarian meal. The food is really good, and all home-cooked,” said Grace, who has two siblings, Wilf, 14 and Max, 18.
Last week Louise took her fellow upper sixth form students, who organise Charity Week, to visit the hospice to see for themselves the valuable work it does. A speaker from St Michael’s also gave a talk to students in assembly.
And history teacher David Bruce got the fundraising off the starting blocks when he ran the Yorkshire Marathon on October 14 in 4hrs 1min to raise £1,000 for the hospice.
Louise, who wants to be a doctor, said her experience had opened her eyes to the reality of palliative care: “It makes me very proud to show the rest of the school the great work St Michael’s does because I know our fundraising will make such a difference to so many people’s lives.”
*St Michael’s Hospice needs to raise £5m annually to help provide extra support for people with a variety of terminal illnesses. It also offers bereavement support services for families. For more information, visit www.stmichaelshospice.org
*October 22-26 Charity week events at RGS include fun activities and musical performances involving both students and staff during break, lunch and after-school with a suggested donations of 50p/£1 for most events.
There will also be a first and second year film night on Monday, October 22; third, fourth and fifth year inflatable sessions on Wednesday October 24 and a non-uniform day on Friday October 26
Captions: Grace, left, and Louise, right, above. Top, Grace and Louise with some of their fellow students who will be fundraising for St Michael's Hospice