I had been invited by Ian Turnbull, Volunteer Co-ordinator at Willowbrook, to visit the Hospice a month or so before the service and was very kindly given a tour of the facilities by Ian and Lady Kirsty Pilkinton (Chairman of the Council of Management). I learned a great deal about the beginnings of the Hospice and heard first-hand from some of the patients and their relatives how highly they value the staff and the care they receive - a loving testimony of the wonderful work that Willowbrook does. It was also kind of Chief Executive Neil Wright to take the time to meet with me too and a pleasure to chat to some of the staff and volunteers along the way.
Willowbrook is a place with an uplifting and warm atmosphere. It was heartening to hear of the plans for the future of Willowbrook and to see how far they have already come with new facilities; there are lovely new treatment rooms and outpatient facilities and a beautiful new relaxing Japanese garden. It is clear that in years to come the Hospice wishes to maintain and develop futher the excellent standard of care they are providing - and to extend their facilities and expertise to care for more patients within the hospice and home environment. None of this can been achieved without fundraising and the support of all of the people who have been a part of Willowbrook.
It was a great privilege for me to be invited to attend their 15th Anniversary celebrations at the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral on Saturday 14th July 2012. Here are some recollections of an inspiring and moving service:-
Lady Kirsty Pilkinton, who played a pivotal role in helping to raise the money to build the Hospice, shared her memories of the beginnings of Willowbrook. Initially £1.8m was needed, through fundraising to set up the Hospice and after reaching the £1m mark construction of the facilities began on 18th Feb 1995. In 1997 the first patients received their care and Willowbrook was officially named and opened by Princess Alexandra in 1999.
Nicola Saunders (Fundraising and Marketing) lead at the Hospice spoke of how each year £2.8m is needed to provide the Hospice service; Not only to care for patients, but in order that the hospice can ‘survive and grow.’ She mentioned how inspired she is through getting to know the patients, families and volunteers, and said that the hospice is ‘owned by the community that support it. ‘Through fundraising we can dare to dream – you, the people that support us are priceless’
Rita Plunkett (a past volunteer) has served the Hospice for 20 years and mentioned how proud she was to be associated with it. She set up a community action group to support the Willowbrook community and remembered the first fundraising shop they opened in Westfield Street. Rita paid tribute to Lady Pilkinton for her ‘undivided attention and total commitment’ to Willowbrook’.
Peter Edge (a current volunteer) provides transport for the Hospice – from driving patients to and from treatments and day care, to pharmacy duties and transporting Doctors. He indicated how his passion to help vulnerable people drove him to Volunteer at Willowbrook saying he has the ‘time, resources and physical and mental capacity to give.’ He commented on how humbling and personally satisfying it is to witness the ‘courage, care and compassion and to be a part of something that special is in itself very special.’
John Ellis (carer) gave heartfelt thanks for the care his family member had received at the Hospice. He recalled the fear and uncertainty at the time of diagnosis and initial treatments. It was on referral to Willowbrook that John and his family found ‘Support and friendship – a welcoming place for all the family.’ - ‘Never a hospital statistic but a welcome guest.’
Martyn Lewis, Vice President of Help the Hospices, recalled the ‘spirit and atmosphere’ 15 years ago at the opening of Willowbrook. He encouraged people to get involved with supporting the Hospice and highlighted that no one can be certain that they or their families won’t one day benefit from the care of a Hospice. Martyn said that “Willowbrook has played a major role in a remarkable hospice movement, and that it has been on an “Inspiring Journey of Achievement” He said “Willowbrook is your baby - it is there because you were there when it needed you the most.” He expressed that the gift of hospice services is the ‘fountain of goodness that enriches the community with caring and commitment.’
Dr Athony Thompson, Assistant Medical Director, praised the teamwork at Willowbrook from the “Housekeeping staff down to the Doctors!” He also provided a wonderful context of statistics of how many patients, day-care, outpatients, families, loved ones, friends, staff, volunteers, palliative care and students have been involved with and benefited from Willowbrook.
Lucy Scriven (Holistic Thearapy Lead) has worked at Willowbrook for 9 years and spoke of the creative complimentary therapy and wellbeing care patients receive. Lucy read a beautiful poem by a Willowbrook patient, Jane Evans called “Marks we make” and described the time she spends with patients exploring their thoughts and feeling. At the service a beautiful Willowbrook banner (Pictured) was displayed which represented the voices of the patients who were asked to give one word about positive aspects of the care they are receiving care. The banner represents the history and future legacy of Willowbrook and includes words such as hope, love, courage, support, positivity, family, happiness, acceptance.
It was a great pleasure to sing Schubert’s Ave Maria and Rutter’s Deep Peace during the service and to also hear musical contributions from the choir of De La Salle School, the Irish Guard Singers and Richard Lea.
It was a wonderful service of celebration.
If you would like to learn more about Willowbrook click here.