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Charity walk will bring family even closer

Twenty-three members of one family taking part in ellenor’s popular Twilight Walk in Gravesend are sure to smash their fundraising target of £2,000.

Their overriding desire to help raise funds was sparked by the loving and professional care the charity’s homecare nurses gave to Colin Souten -- husband to Doris and father of seven.

Colin passed away at home in June with his family around him. They say looking after him in his final days brought them all even closer, and their bond was helped by the ellenor team. The nurses’ expert care and gentle advice gave the family the confidence they needed to cherish Colin’s last days.

One of his 37 grandchildren Harry Souten said: “After what happened we all decided we wanted to do something to say thank you to ellenor. There will be four generations of us taking part right down to little Oliver, who is two and will probably have to be carried most of the way!

“The walk is going to help us make memories as a whole family. It will be a family event but it’s also a way to say thank you. Doing the walk with everyone else taking part also shows people they are not alone.”

The annual 10k walk, to be held in Gravesend on the evening of Friday September 22, has become a well-recognised and supported event in ellenor’s fundraising calendar. Seeing hundreds of ellenor supporters walk through the streets, dressed in their orange tee-shirts and often fancy dress is a sight to behold!

Colin’s daughter Kelly Jeffery said: “It will definitely be a challenge as most of us haven’t walked 10k in our lives. Not one of us is that fit.”

Her father died at the age of 84, with the ellenor nurses attending to him every two hours night and day. His decline came as a shock to the family even though he had a history of heart failure and other health issues.

Kelly said: “He had a triple heart bypass more than 20 years ago, but he always seemed to just bounce back every time he was ill. This time he was only unwell for a few weeks, and it was hard seeing him go downhill so quickly. It was scary not knowing what to expect, and that’s where ellenor really helped.”

Her son Matthew, who took responsibility for a great deal of his beloved grandad’s care, agreed with his mum.

He said: “We wanted to give him end of life care here in his own home and having the ellenor nurses here definitely relieved a lot of pressure. Before they came, we were trying to do everything ourselves, taking it in turns. Once the GP decided Grandad needed palliative care, he referred us to ellenor, and it was good to have professional help and advice.

“As well as helping Grandad, they supported us as well and made sure we knew what was going on and gave us the heads up. Once we all accepted what was happening, it brought us all closer. Death happens to all of us – it is not a subject to avoid. ellenor took the fear out of the word ‘palliative’.”

Witnessing his grandad’s illness and death changed Matthew’s attitude and made him less wary of discussing end of life. He saw how important it is to create a positive experience for the patient and their loved ones. In fact, the family’s dealings with the undertakers even prompted Matthew to approach them for a job – and he has now started work there.

Before Colin’s illness, his family, all based in the Gravesend area, knew of ellenor. Another family member had received care from the charity and granddaughter Rebekah Robinson has also enjoyed her work experience at the hospice in Northfleet.

However, it was not until recently that they began to realise just how much ellenor does for patients and their families – both at the hospice and out in the community. They have also been briefed by the ellenor team about what is on offer from the Wellbeing team. Colin’s widow Doris, who is registered blind and has poor mobility, will have bereavement counselling. Other members of the family also know they can access services to help them through their grief.

Harry said: “The aftercare we have received from ellenor has been fantastic – they have been wonderful with Nan and all the family. We are all looking forward to the Twilight Walk and we are already planning other things to raise money, like a coffee morning here at Nan’s house.”

Colin’s granddaughter Holly Bowyer said: “It’s nice to do something for Grandad, in his memory.”

Harry is determined to publicise his family’s involvement in the walk, and his social media skills mean he is well equipped to do so. He is a keen performer who takes part in Gravesham Pride and his job as an engagement officer for The Grand, a community centre in Gravesend, means he understands all about wellbeing and mental health.

He said: “As a family we are quite open about everything, especially personal issues and relationships. Talking it through with the family is like going to a psychiatrist.”

Kelly agreed: “We are even appropriately open with the younger ones. They were here every day, and they knew that one day they would come and their great grandad wouldn’t be here anymore. Ellenor supported us through a hard time. They always let us know what was going on and we will always be grateful for how they helped us all.”



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If you would like to sponsor the family of Colin Souten you can donate to their JustGiving page.