Everybody has their own hero – and for little Harrison Jones it will always be his dad Neil.
Despite living with a brain tumour, Neil, a keen mountain biker, taught Harrison, aged five, how to ride his bike and shared his love of Star Wars with him. Father and son were able to enjoy their passion for the movies even when Neil went into St Giles Hospice for end-of-life care.
Now Harrison, his three-year-old brother Seb and mum Heidi, from Lichfield, will be making memories in a mask as they take part in the new St Giles Hospice Hero Walk to celebrate the life of their brave dad and husband and raise funds for the hospice where he spent his final days.
The St Giles Hospice Hero Walk, a fundraising fun day for all the family, will be taking place in Walsall Arboretum on Saturday, 21st September, starting at 12pm. It is a new event which aims to bring the whole family together to enjoy a 5km hero-themed walk with every penny raised going towards the more than £9m-a-year that St Giles needs to support people living with a potentially-incurable illness and their families.
All participants can kick off their afternoon at the hero hub, where they can give their super powers a boost with snacks and smoothies before setting off on their Arboretum adventure from midday with awesome activities along the route, including a hero hunt for the kids. A hero’s welcome awaits everyone as they cross the finish line to celebrate with a goodie bag and medal.
Director of Fundraising at St Giles Hospice, Elinor Eustace, said: “This brand-new event is your chance to show you care in a cape at a family fun day fit for heroes of all ages and abilities – and doggie sidekicks are welcome!
“We want to give everyone across the community the chance to come along and celebrate their own personal heroes, whether they have encountered or supported St Giles before or not. Your entry fee only covers the administration cost of the Hero Walk, so you can become our hero by asking friends and family to sponsor you. You can raise valuable funds that will help St Giles to continue providing care free of charge to patients and their families.”
Heroes come in all shapes and sizes and Heidi Jones is urging other families to come along and walk for their hero, whoever they may be – family member, someone they have lost, nurse, teacher or friend.
She said: “Neil was a daredevil who was very outgoing and could be very stubborn but he was determined to live life to the full.”
Neil and Heidi were teenage sweethearts who met at 16. In 2004, Neil had a series of seizures and the couple were told the devastating news that he had an inoperable brain tumour.
They got married in 2008 and went on to have sons Harrison and Seb. But in 2017 Neil was told that the cancer had spread to his bones and he started to receive support from the St Giles community nursing team.
For Heidi, the support offered by St Giles was invaluable when Neil’s condition took a turn for the worse and he was admitted to the hospice. Heidi and her sons were regular visitors to Whittington and the boys were made welcome with special meals and their very own cinema set up so they could watch films with their dad. Staff even organised a trip out for Neil to see the latest Star Wars film at the cinema when it was released.
Heidi has special memories of that time and the support they all received. She said: “I’ll always remember that the physio helped Neil to stand up so he could give me one last hug and that meant the world.”
When Neil died Heidi knew that St Giles’s Phoenix service, for young people who have been bereaved, would be there to help when Harrison was struggling as he felt frustrated and couldn’t communicate his feelings.
“We started going to the family support group and everyone was really welcoming because we were all in the same boat so it made everything easier to talk about,” said Heidi. “Finding the right support for the boys was essential as they are the one thing that has made me get out of bed on the toughest days. When they smile, I smile and I wouldn’t have survived if they hadn’t pulled me through.”
Entry to the Hero Walk is £6 for children (under 16), £10 for adults, £30 for a family (two adults, two children), and free for children under three. The entry fee includes a free superhero mask and to take part in true superhero style, capes can be pre-ordered or bought on the day for £5 each.
To find out more or sign up for the St Giles Hospice Hero Walk please visit www.stgileshospice.com/hero-walk/
PICTURE: Harrison (left), Heidi and Seb Jones.