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John Taylor Hospice Birthday Walk

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by dpm (subscribe)
dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
Balloons at the ready
More than ten members of one Birmingham family will be taking part in this year's John Taylor Hospice Birthday Walk in memory of a much-loved husband, father and grandfather.

The Blenkiron and Matty family, with ages ranging from under ten to over sixty, are walking for Bob Blenkiron of Castle Vale, who died on October 7 of last year. Taking part is their way of saying thank you to the Hospice and ensuring John Taylor can support other families.

And with this year's 3.5 mile Birthday Walk on Sunday October 5, the event will have particular poignancy for his family as its date is so close to the first anniversary of Bob's death.

Bob's wife of nearly 50 years Christine says all the family want to take part to say thank you for the support offered by staff at the Birmingham Hospice.

John Taylor Hospice, Birthday Walk, Birmingham
Christine with a photo of her husband Bob

"It's our way of doing something for the Hospice," she says. "Because it's only when you really need it that you realise how much difference the Hospice can make."

Bob was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus in February 2010 and was told the condition was terminal. After undergoing palliative chemotherapy for six months Bob rallied and then underwent an operation to remove the cancer which had also spread to his lymph nodes.

But by the summer of last year his condition was deteriorating.

"Bob was devoted to his family, always smiling and always joking," says 67-year-old Christine. "He was strong-minded and would say what he thought.

"But that summer we were on holiday and I just knew something wasn't right. He was tired and he wasn't really himself."

Blood tests confirmed the family's worst fears and Bob was told the cancer had spread to his liver.

Bob received support from John Taylor's community team including the Hospice's Macmillan community nurse specialist Sally Kilroy and he died peacefully at home aged 66 and surrounded by his loved ones.

Christine then received support through the Hospice's Well-Being Team particularly volunteer bereavement counsellor Chris Womwell.

"I have found it very helpful because it's someone other than your family to talk to," Christine adds.

When the family heard about the Hospice's annual Birthday Walk, they were keen to take part.

Bob and Christine's daughter Michelle Matty, aged 49, of Wylde Green, has been busy organising the team.

John Taylor Hospice, Birmingham, Birthday Walk

"It's a really good way for all of the family to do something together to give something back to the Hospice," says Michelle. "As well as our dad, we all know people who have been cared for at John Taylor Hospice and I don't know what people would do without them.

"Most of the family are taking part and I've also got some friends who want to do it with us. We're really looking forward to it."

Also on the team is Bob's granddaughter Jess, aged 23 of Castle Vale, who began working at John Taylor Hospice earlier this spring on an apprenticeship.

She says: "Now I'm working at the Hospice I have learnt so much about all the ways it can help people. I know the Hospice is helping so many other families."

John Taylor Hospice was founded in 1910 and gifted to the NHS in 1948. With changes to the NHS, staff at the Hospice chose to become independent and set up as a not for profit social enterprise in October 2011. The Birthday Walk was launched that year to celebrate the Hospice's independence and has attracted hundreds of families each October.

The event begins and ends with a party at the Ramada Hotel in Penns Lane, Sutton Coldfield with the route, which is family, wheelchair and dog friendly, including Pype Hayes Park and Grange Road, going past the Hospice.

John Taylor Hospice, Birmingham, Birthday Walk
John Taylor Hospice Birthday Walk

John Taylor Hospice CEO Kate Phipps says: "We are delighted that so many of Bob's family are joining this year's Birthday Walk. They will be walking with many other families who we have the privilege to meet at a most difficult time in their lives, providing the care and support that they need, whenever they need it.

"Our Birthday Walk is a celebration and we have been overwhelmed by the generosity of families like Bob's. Our Birthday Walk is a day when we can say thank you too."

John Taylor Hospice's Birthday Walk takes place on Sunday October 5 from 9.30am. You can register online. For more information on the Hospice see visit the website.

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Why? Join together for a family-friendly walk
When: Sunday 5 October
Phone: 0121 465 2000
Where: Ramada Hotel, Penns Lane, Sutton Coldfield
Cost: 5 registration fee
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