“St Giles was a revelation to us”
Mum of two Ellen Knowles is not one for public speaking. But when the opportunity arose to speak at the St Giles Hospice Starlight Walk in Aldridge she didn’t want to turn it down.
It was a chance to pay tribute to her late dad Alf Knowles from Willenhall and start the walk in his honour.
“I was nervous but I know dad would have been really proud,” said Ellen. “St Giles did so much for us that I wanted to share our story to inspire others to fundraise.”
Ellen’s dad Alf was just four years into his retirement when he was given the news that he had just months left to live.
The former foundry worker had been diagnosed with advanced lung cancer and it wasn’t long before he was admitted to St Giles Hospice in Walsall.
Ellen recalls the moment her dad was given the devastating news about his illness in September 2016.
“I’ll never forget dad’s reaction as we came out of the doctor’s,” said Ellen. “He said, ‘I’ve had 69 years, that’s a good innings. If it’s my time, it’s my time’. He’d just been given a death sentence and there he was being selfless, trying not to upset us. That was typical of dad – he was one in a million.”
Alf spent much of the next six weeks in hospital before a decision was taken to transfer him to St Giles Hospice in Whittington near Lichfield.
“St Giles was a revelation to us,” said Ellen. “Dad’s condition had deteriorated a lot but the hospice was so like home it felt like Dad had become a person again. He was no longer just a number on a hospital ward.
“We had fish and chips together on the ward and chilled out watching TV. And when the local football derby was on the staff got it streamed on a laptop for him. He was in his element watching it in his Aston Villa football top with some close friends and a pint of Guinness.
“The staff made sure mum’s needs were met as well, offering complementary therapies for them both and bringing in an extra bed so she could stay with him.
“They couldn’t have been more thoughtful and for that we’re eternally grateful.”
Alf – dad to Ellen and Laura, granddad to twins Ava and Eve and husband to Judith -died on November 1, 2016 and it wasn’t long before the close-knit family decided to fundraise in his memory.
“At Dad’s wake, someone suggested doing TrekFest, which is a 25km walk over the Brecon Beacons,” said Ellen. “We didn’t realise before we got there that it was an SAS route! It was a slog but we made it.”
The family also held a charity evening on what would have been Alf’s 70th birthday and took part in the St Giles Hospice Starlight Walk in Aldridge. So far, they’ve raised more than £14,000.
Ellen said she was thrilled the story was picked up by the local newspaper to help raise awareness of the work at St Giles.
“Dad’s legacy will live on in the money that we’ve raised,” said Ellen. “If our story can encourage others to support St Giles then even more people will get to benefit from the same dedicated care he received.”