"Volunteering is a great way to achieve personal goals."
Chris Hall discovered volunteering after the loss of his mother at St John’s Hospice in February 2016. He has since embarked on a volunteering journey that has led to him cycling 365 miles in five days for Sue Ryder.
"I worked in finance for over 15 years, but after my Mum’s death decided to leave the sector that, for the last three to five years, had made me really unhappy and anxious.
"I also wanted to give something back to Sue Ryder to thank them for the amazing care and dignity they gave my Mum. I saw this as a great opportunity to utilise my skills and passion, safe in the knowledge I would be doing something that would make my Mum proud."
Using my skills
"I took a short career break to assess what was important to me, during which I approached the St John's team to ask if they needed volunteers. They suggested I become a Volunteer Fundraiser.
"Interestingly, despite having worked in finance, at first I encountered one small problem: I wasn’t comfortable asking people for money. But then, over the Christmas 2016 period, I helped support and run a new event at St John’s that raised over £2,000 for the charity; after that, the idea of asking for money became a little easier."
Volunteering alongside paid work
"In the new year, an opportunity came up for a paid position with Sue Ryder as the National Volunteering Database Officer, which I applied for and happily got. And so I was able to develop my skills and experience whilst remaining as a volunteer at St John’s Hospice.
"I continued to help and support various events throughout 2017, including cycling 100 miles in July as part of the Prudential RideLondon festival of cycling.
"This then got me thinking, what challenge could I do next?"
A bright idea
"I thought it would be really good idea to raise awareness of all the hospices Sue Ryder runs while at the same time raising money for care, and I was also really excited to complete a challenge that no one had attempted before.
"So, having spoken to a few departments across the charity about my idea, I decided to cycle all seven Sue Ryder hospices, covering 365 miles in five days, during July 2018.
"I was supported in doing this by my close friend Darren who offered to cycle with me, and proved to be great company as we literally rode the ups and downs of the journey together."
Cycling seven hospices in five days
"Our starting point in West Yorkshire was from the upland heights of Manorlands Hospice. We headed pleasantly downhill to Wheatfields Hospice in Leeds and then on to Lincoln, where we stayed overnight, having covered 100 miles.
"On day two we cycled from Lincoln to Thorpe Hall Hospice in Peterborough, covering a distance of 65 miles – and spurred on to finish in time for the England vs Costa Rica World Cup kick off!
"During the third day we travelled 50 miles from Thorpe Hall to St John’s Hospice, in Moggerhanger in Bedford, enjoying the open air and beauty of the rolling hills and sunshine.
"On day four we cycled to Nettlebed Hospice in Henley-on-Thames and then on to Reading and Duchess of Kent Hospice, a distance of 75 miles.
"Day five – by this time very saddle sore and exhausted! – saw us cycle the 75-mile closing leg of the ride from Duchess of Kent Hospice to Leckhampton Court Hospice in Cheltenham. On the way, tired and thirsty, we stumbled across a Sue Ryder charity shop in Highworth, Swindon, where the team kindly provided much-needed tea and biscuits and refilled our water bottles.
"By the time we crossed the finishing line at Leckhampton Court Hospice, cheered on by volunteers and staff, we felt utterly victorious and finally got to celebrate by downing a few well-earned pints in the local pub."
"A worthy cause close to my heart"
"Despite steep hills, minor mechanical problems and fatigue along the way, I loved every minute of the challenge, particularly knowing we had raised money for such a worthy cause so close to my heart.
"It was a great feeling of achievement and I hope other people will consider taking up the challenge; it may be possible to complete it in four or even three days – I’m more than happy to discuss the logistics of doing this with anyone who's interested in following in our tyre treads.
View Chris's map of the route
"I’m coming up to two years' volunteering and my anxiety has reduced, I’m much happier and I know my Mum is proud. I will continue to support Sue Ryder so the charity can continue to support others in the way St John’s did for my family."
Interested in volunteering?
Search volunteer opportunities