“Dad thought the hospice was like a 5 star hotel – now I’m trekking in his memory”

“Dad loved being in the hospice.

“He said it was like being in a 5 star hotel without having to pay for it.”

It’s for that reason that Jet Ward-Henry was determined to do something to help raise money for Marie Curie, after her father died at the charity’s Cardiff and the Vale Hospice in July – nine days after her graduation.

Though the 23-year-old works at a Barry gym, she admits to not being the most active of people – and so thought a trek through Sri Lanka would be exactly the sort of challenge to get people to sponsor her and get donations for the terminal illness charity in memory of her dad.

Jet will be joined by 26 others – including Hospice ambassador and television presenter Mariclare Carey-Jones, and four Marie Curie Nurses – and a selection of them met at Treetops Adventure Golf in St David’s 2 to get into the spirit of the environment they will be trekking in.

Marc Henry has been living with Sarcoidosis for 26 years.  The rare condition causes small patches of red and swollen tissue, called granulomas, to develop in the organs of the body.  Marc’s heart and lungs were affected by the condition, and over his final 18 months he attended the hospice for symptom control.

Jet praised the hospice team not only for the care her dad received, but also for the care her late grandmother had at the hospice six years ago, and support her grandfather has received.

“I had wanted to do something then (when my grandmother died), but I was still quite young,” she said.

“I took some fundraising boxes for the funeral, and when me and my brother took them into the hospice to give them to the fundraising lady, that’s when I saw the poster for the Trek.

“I asked if they possibly had any spaces left so I could join in to raise money.

“It’s totally out of my comfort zone, but I wanted to do something that was personal for the hospice and to Marie Curie, rather than do my own event for the sake of it.”

And she’s not the only one who was keen to take part in an event for the hospice, with more than two dozen others signed up to tackle the route through Sri Lanka, which will include treks through jungles, over mountains and in national parks, as well as the opportunity to see wild elephants, leopards and the purple faced monkey.

Marie Curie Nurses who have signed up to the trek have dubbed themselves the “Hospice Hikers”, while ambassador Mariclare Carey-Jones is thrilled to finally be able to take part in a trek for the charity, after plans to join the Costa Rica trek last year were scuppered following an injury.

Jet & Marc Henry

The charity cared for her granddad  – or Nonno as Mariclare called him – at the hospice.

“My mum’s side of the family are Italian and we do everything together,” she said.

“There was never any time during visiting where we were told there should only be two people to a bed, we could come at any time.  I will never forget the last few weeks I had with my granddad.

“At the time, I was working for ITV, so I would finish work at 7 o’clock and drive straight to the hospice.   I would go to the kitchen and make us a cup of tea and get biscuits and I would sit with Nonno (that’s what I would call him).  It was like home from home when he was there.

“Since then I have done everything I can to support the charity, so taking part in the trek it’s just the next step.  I can’t wait and Dave (my husband) is also doing it with me.”

Jet also praised the open hours at the hospice – something she says she was not used to when her father was in and out of hospital during his illness.

“Though he was cared for in hospitals, it was never with a personal touch that he got in the hospice,” she said.

“The nurses became such friendly faces during visiting, and I felt safe knowing I could leave my dad there to be cared for.

“I will always remember Sanny, one of the nurses.

“He was working both shifts when my nan and when my dad passed away.  My nan liked him, he was her favourite nurse.   He’s very welcoming and he’s very expressive.  Nothing is too much for him.

“When dad was unwell, he would get quite hungry in the middle of the night.  They would give him a ham sandwich and some crisps at three in the morning.

“Because of his illness, he never really drank, but one night he was offered a G and T and he thought that was fantastic to be able to have a drink in the hospice.  They would let him go out to go to parties and then come back into the hospice.  He didn’t feel like he was in a hospice atmosphere at all.  He was 62 when he died.”

Because of her dad’s love of parties, Jet hopes to hold a fundraising party to help her reach the £3500 fundraising needed.

Talking about her dad, Jet said:  “He was just really laid back, nothing bothered him. Even when he was ill, you wouldn’t know he was ill to look at him.

“When we took him to the hospice two days before he passed away, he was asked if he had come to visit someone.  He looked fine, he didn’t look ill.

“He was very proud about how he presented himself too, even when he went into Marie Curie he would make sure his tracksuit bottoms and tops he took matched.  He wasn’t a slob in that respect.

“He also always had a sense of humour and liked to play silly jokes on people.”

Jet added that her family are very supportive of her efforts, but added: “They thought it was a joke at first, they thought I was winding them up!

“Even my gym manager thought it was hilarious.  But they all know it’s for a good cause and know why I wanted to do it.”

Other trekkers have held tea parties, Christmas fetes, balls and one has even shaved her hair off to raise the funds.

The group will head off on their trek on November 16 and are due to return on November 25 – though some will stay on to travel following the challenge.

The next overseas trek will be to fundraise for the whole of the Marie Curie in Wales Nursing Service, including the hospice and the community.  Fundraisers are currently deciding on the location and dates, which will be announced in the coming months.

To find out how to sign up to an overseas trek, visit https://www.mariecurie.org.uk/get-involved/charity-events/overseas-challenges

If you would like to sponsor Jet for her Sri Lanka trek, visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/teamfatboymarchenry

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Nathan Spackman

Nathan is the Sales & Events manager at Bro Radio. You'll occasionally find him with our street team and hosting at local events as well as presenting our facebook live videos.