Following my operational service I became an instructor on 76 squadron, based at RAF Linton-on-Ouse near York. Cheshire was a wartime Commanding Officer of 76 squadron and, because of this heritage, the squadron formed a close link with the local residential service, Alne Hall. We conducted a range of activities to help out where we could.
As well as this link, there was a strong squadron association and I was privileged to get to know many of the former members who served with Cheshire. He was remembered with much fondness and pride. Cheshire was instrumental in raising funds for a memorial to the fallen of 76 squadron at Holme on Spalding Moor. The association continues to meet there every year at around the time of Cheshire’s birthday.
I started volunteering in my own right after I left the RAF. I was soon asked to organise the creation of a sensory garden at Alne Hall. We started pretty much from scratch and had lots of volunteers involved in the process. We set about clearing the three quarter acre patch of ground and, thanks to numerous great companies, soon had accessible paths and various sensory zones. We had a path built around the willow tree so the residents could sit inside the canopy and feel the leaves, hear the rustling and enjoy the light. I was very proud to show Princess Anne around the garden and introduce her to some staff and residents in October 2017.
I’ve run two London Marathons for Leonard Cheshire but I’ll always remember doing the Great North Run with Spike. He is a resident who was keen to take part in the race; we pushed him in his wheelchair around the course, and Spike took the last five or six steps. As he was crossing over the finish line, the Red Arrows were flying past overhead. So Spike got a mention from the Red Arrows announcer too. That was a great day.
Today, I work as a volunteer coordinator and activities manager. I’m based mainly at Oaklands in Garstang, Lancashire. I’m also getting started with a similar role at our nearby supported living service, The Moorings.
We have an excellent team of volunteers: some of them help with group activities such as arts and crafts; some are matched with one person and will get to know them, have a regular chat, and help them write letters.
I really enjoy working with the people who use our services. I want to support them to live life to the full and do what they want to do. The dancing session we have introduced on a Monday at Oaklands, for example, is proving really popular: all the residents love it and so do the staff. Everyone is working together and having a great time. It’s brilliant!
I really enjoy working with the people who use our services. I want to support them to live life to the full and do what they want to do.