The group departed from St John’s on September 17th and were welcomed in Beijing with a traditional Peking duck meal at one of the capital’s most famous restaurants. The following morning, they set out to catch their first glimpse of the Great Wall, spending up to 7 hours a day trekking up and down the wall visiting mountain villages, staying with local families, climbing the famous steps of Heaven’s Ladder and learning about the Chinese culture.
Seven days later, they reached the end of their journey with a group photo on the wall and a celebratory glass of Chinese champagne. Before leaving Beijing, the group took time to visit a hospice; a poignant end to a wonderful journey.
The epic trek, planned to celebrate 30 years of care at St John’s Hospice, began a year ago when 31 eager members of the community met for the first time and signed up to trek the Great Wall. Each person had to raise at least £1,700 for the hospice in order to take part but many targets have been smashed, with almost £90,000 being raised. From street and store bucket collections, lotto bonus balls, ABBA nights, dinner parties, coffee mornings, the list and variety of fundraising efforts has been phenomenal.
Alvene Costello from Kendal explains how her journey began, “I hadn’t any prior connection with St John’s Hospice, I saw an advert for the trek and the location and the walking challenge appealed to me. As soon as I started fundraising I learned very quickly how important St John’s Hospice is to so many. I would be standing holding my collection bucket and people would donate and tell me their hospice story. The more I got involved the more I understood what a fantastic job the nurses do – not just in the hospice, but all over Kendal and the South Lakes too.”
Chris Wheatman, also from Kendal, took part in the challenge in memory of his brother who passed away at the hospice 10 years ago. This year, his brother would have turned 50:
“For me, it was a kind of pilgrimage for my brother and it has been incredible,” he explained. “There are lots of places on the wall where you can leave notes in memory of loved ones and it is wonderful to know that there are dedications to my brother thousands of miles away.”
Sue McGraw, CEO at St John’s Hospice, led the group on the expedition and is so proud of everyone’s efforts:
“This time last year, a few of us knew each other, but the vast majority of us were strangers. Today, as I have watched people talking, laughing and supporting each other on that wall I can honestly say we’re a group of friends. From different backgrounds, a range of ages, six brave boys surrounded by a gaggle of girls! But, we have all now got St John’s in common. Throughout the trip, I have seen our hospice values in action; care for each other, compassion for those that need it, collaboration – because it’s a tough walk and we’ve all needed help from time to time – charity, in the form of almost £90,000 raised for our wonderful hospice and, finally, celebration. This walk has been a celebration of all that is good in people ? their collective efforts and commitment on behalf of the people who are the most vulnerable in our community. I’ve been proud to walk alongside them.”
For a much more thorough account of their journey, visit www.sjhospice.org.uk/trekblog. You can also still donate to a trekker by visiting www.sjhospice.org.uk/trek and clicking on Sponsor a Friend. You can make a general donation to the fund at www.sjhospice.org.uk/donate.