From 17-21 September 2014, I will join 15 other Trekkers in the Ypres Salient, Belgium. I know that for us all, the centenary of the First World War will sit heavily on our minds as we walk the battlefields of West Flanders and visit memorials to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Whilst commemorating generations past, as a group we have pledged to fundraise over £20,000 for a truly worthwhile cause, The Royal Star & Garter Homes. The Charity was founded in 1916 to care for the severely disabled young men returning from the trenches, some undoubtedly from the Ypres Salient itself. The average age of these young men was 22 years.
It is little comparison 100 years on, but my first challenges for the Trek began before setting foot on Belgian soil. These are training and fundraising. As a seasoned cyclist, I am more accustomed to challenges on two wheels than two legs. My beloved bicycle has certainly been helping with the fitness levels as I undertake the 22-mile round trip to work each day. The trainers and walking boots have also made appearances and are becoming acquainted with the pavements of South West London and the Surrey Hills. I think a whole (separate) fashion blog could be dedicated to the trials and tribulations of shopping for walking gear – of which I shall spare you the details.
As for the fundraising, past experience tells me to expect a flurry of donations just before the event (here’s hoping). I have a target of £1,500 and time is ticking by. Mia Patterson, our Regional Fundraising Manager, has been wonderfully forthcoming with endless fundraising ideas. I’m not sure I’ll manage to do them all justice, but bake-sales and a pub quiz are most definitely on the cards. Watch this space – and the waistlines of my colleagues.
I am one of three members of staff at the Charity who will be joining the Trek (including our Director of Care & Service Development, Pauline Shaw, and Regional Fundraising Manager, Mia). When I joined the Charity in March, the Trek initially sounded like a brilliant opportunity to visit the Ypres Salient and to mark the start of the First World War. But as I spend more time at the Charity and meet the residents, my motivations for the trek have somewhat altered. I am now doing this as much to remember those who trod the same ground in the Ypres Salient 100 years ago (albeit in unimaginable circumstances) as I am in support of those who have suffered as a result of conflicts since then.
I feel immensely privileged to work for an organisation that cares for over 200 Disabled Veterans every year. Their stories, some of which are told on this website, are incredible. As a fundraiser based at the Administration Office in Hampton, I can only admire the unwavering dedication and spirit of my colleagues in the Homes and the brilliant level of care they give to our residents. This is a quote I came across recently from one of our residents, Maggie (a former Bletchley Park girl, now in her nineties), which I hope highlights the work of the Charity:
“When I arrived (at the Home) I felt as though I had come in from the dark. I have experienced more in the last year than the previous 15 years. I have the option of so many things to do including physiotherapy, activities and good company.”
What an honour it is to be taking part in this Trek on behalf of this very special organisation and our wonderful residents.
To find out more, please visit Kirstie’s Virgin Money Giving page: