Trekkers from across the area are off to India for a ten-day expedition, with the aim of raising more than £60,000 for St Barnabas House hospice.
The Dalai Lama India Trek will see 42 intrepid explorers set off on Thursday for Dharamshala, where they will begin their 67km trek in the Himalayas.
The journey will take them through the spiritual heart of northern India, centre of the Tibetan community in the foothills of the mountains.
Glen Gillam, 46, from Steyning is taking on the challenge in memory of his mother and father, who were both cared for at St Barnabas House.
Glen, sales director for Green Insurance Group, said: “My mother, Susan Pamela Gillam, passed away in the old St Barnabas on December 22, 1993. She had a lung removed about seven years prior and as I was in my teens, I only remember her being tired, leaning on me a lot, and going into hospital but always still smiling and being my mum.
“My family, including my mum, very much protected me from her illness and tried to live life as normally as possible. I didn’t understand how ill she was until she passed away. I was 21 years old, so it was a shock.
“She was in and out of the hospice in the months prior to her passing. I remember visiting her there and how warm and kind the staff were to us all. When she passed away, my brother, father and I were able to be with her at the hospice.”
Glen returned to St Barnabas 22 years later, this time at the new hospice in Titnore Lane, after his father was taken ill.
He said: “My father, Malcolm John Gillam, known to all as John, was admitted to the hospice on December 23, 2015, and passed away on December 24. He had stomach cancer which spread to his lung and liver. His deterioration in the last week was fast.
“On December 23 I was speaking to the hospice and I really didn’t know what to do. My father just wanted to be there. The team and the nurse helping us were amazing and said if I could get him there in 45 minutes he would have a place.
“Dad and I jumped in the car and got him there and I could see that Dad’s relief was huge. It was very obvious that he wanted to be in the hospice as I’m sure he knew they would look after him having seen how they cared for my mother. I don’t think the timing was a coincidence either, being so close to my mother’s death.
“When my dad passed away, it hit me hard and I realised I hadn’t really dealt with my mum passing, so I took up the offer of counselling from the hospice, which really did help me greatly.”
Glen said he was doing the walk primarily as I felt the hospice did an amazing job looking after his parents and is family at the worst time and he wanted others to get the same care he was so very lucky to receive.
He is trekking with one of his best friends, Darren Dalton, who lost his stepdad and mother-in-law recently, and both are very excited about seeing India and taking on the challenge.
Glen has raised just over £2,800 to date. Visit www.justgiving.com/glen-gillam2 to support him.
Katie Barrett, 46, from East Preston decided to take on the trek when her colleagues on the in-patient unit nursing team at St Barnabas House inspired her following a hip replacement.
She explained: “Three and a half years ago, out of the blue, I had to have a total hip replacement and I thought I would never be able to walk for miles again.
“It was a very bad, low period in my life and it took me much longer to get over having my hip replaced than I thought it would.
“St Barnabas has been my employer for the last ten years. They stood by me and all my lovely teammates helped with my recovery, mentally and physically. They came to see me in hospital and at home, took me out and supported me when I was really low.
“When I came back to work the support carried on and I wasn’t just left to get on with things. It made me realise what a caring and supportive team they really are that I work with, and how amazing they are with the patients.
“I decided that I wanted to raise funds to make sure this teamwork carried on as my way of saying thank you for always being there for me, and for all the different people who pass through the doors of St Barnabas House.”
Katie said she is really looking forward to taking on the challenge with a group of like-minded people who have chosen to support the hospice.
So far, Katie has raised 90 per cent of her £2,800 target. Visit www.justgiving.com/katie-barrettdalailamaindiatrek2018 to support her.
The trekkers are raising funds to help St Barnabas House provide care for people with more clinical complex needs, including heart, liver, kidney and respiratory failure, having introduced specialist services to support these conditions in 2016.
They are currently on track to raise in excess of £60,000.
Registration for St Barnabas House’s Great Wall of China Trek, which takes places in October 2020, is set to open soon.
For more information about the trek, request a brochure from the St Barnabas House events team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 01903 706354.