Truthfully, about 17 years ago, I was inspired to volunteer when my wife (Dawn) became a nurse at Shooting Star Children’s Hospices and she told me I had to! Otherwise, I may never have gotten involved. One of the first things I did was drive a group of supported children to a theatre show, and when I saw the joy on their faces I was hooked.
I have carried out a variety of roles: Driving supported children or siblings in the minibus to various events, such as the ice skating at Hampton Court; Pool watching/dry siding, where a family can spend time in the pool together for both therapy and fun or on ‘Siblings Days’ a group of siblings just having a great time; Delivery driving jobs, such as picking up and dropping off things for fundraising, including the annual ball; Helping at events, bucket shaking and route marshaling, as well as promoting the charity. I have also been a member of the ‘Volunteers Forum’ for several years, where we discuss a range of topics about the charity.
For 35 years I ran my own business as a used car dealer, not necessarily an obvious match for volunteering at a children’s hospice. However, it seems to have worked. When running your own business you have to be able to do a variety of roles, which I love doing for Shooting Star Children’s Hospices. I’m also a Dad to 3 (now grown up) and a Granddad to 3 (still very young) which prepares you for many things.
I enjoy all my roles, but the highlights are always when helping with the children. When pool watching, often the supported children are in wheelchairs and have very restricted movement. When they get into the warm therapy pool, you can see how relaxing it is for them, and the extra freedom of movement they gain. Recently, we put one of the supporting floats on the child, and with some effort, they were able to move themselves along on their own, both the child and the dad were very happy. Another event I have enjoyed helping at is the Hampton Court ice skating. The look of joy on the supported children’s faces as they are pushed around at great speed in their wheelchairs by the brilliant skating assistants is fantastic. There are always challenges, but there is plenty of training given and there is always support from other volunteers and staff.
Being a small part of the great work carried out at the Hospice is very fulfilling; seeing the happiness on the children’s faces when they are at the hospice and the outside events is great and also seeing what an incredible help it all is to the parents and families of the supported children. I’ve also met some great people over the years, including other volunteers and members of staff. Volunteering for the charity has certainly made me more appreciative of how fortunate I have been to have healthy children and grandchildren.
What would you say to prospective Shooting Star volunteers? Definitely give it a try! There are many different roles and there will be something to suit you. I may never have got involved if I hadn’t been ‘encouraged’ to do so, and 17 years later it’s still something I love doing.
Outside of volunteering, I enjoy spending time with family; sports (mainly football); live music (mainly Jazz) and nice restaurants.