Celebrating our incredible volunteers - Alison's story

On Sunday 12th June 2016, The Mall in St James’s Park will be transformed into the largest ever street party to celebrate The Queen’s patronage of over 600 charities and organisations on the occasion of her 90th Birthday.

Alison Hilken has been handpicked to represent the charity at the event as a special thank you for her dedication as a volunteer at the Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent Hospice in Reading. Alison is one of 20 representatives from the national hospice and neurological care charity Sue Ryder who have been invited to attend the special event.

Many Sue Ryder volunteers will be at the event too, which is of particular significance since it is also National Volunteering Week for the next two weeks (1 – 12 June).

"A real privilege"

Alison, 64, has been volunteering for Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent Hospice for six years and so far has raised over £3,700 by herself. She started out as a hospice befriender by speaking to patients and keeping them company. She is now an official Fundraising Ambassador for the Duchess of Kent where she fundraises in the community and organises fun and original events. Some of the best being her long-running ‘Frock Shop’ evenings held at her own home where local women donate clothes and trade them with others.

Alison cares about trying to spread as much joy throughout the Hospice as she can and is known for collecting flowers and decorating the halls and rooms with them to brighten it up.

For Alison, the main pleasure of volunteering for Sue Ryder comes from making patients happy: “This role has brought me enormous pleasure; it’s a real privilege to be able to touch patients’ lives. To have listened to their stories over the years has been truly inspirational.

Alison still has vivid memories of the emotions she felt when she first started at the Duchess of Kent: “I can remember the first time I walked on to the wards on my first day as a volunteer. It was tough because I was faced with an old friend I had known since our school days. He was very poorly but still mustered the strength to talk and smile about the days when we were young.

“I also remember a lady, who was one of my school teachers when I was six years old. I remember telling her how much I enjoyed listening to her read in story time, and she reminisced about how wonderful it was to be a teacher and her recollections of the children she taught. I could honestly write a whole book of memories of all the people I have sat with here.”

It’s not all in the past for Alison though, there is plenty to do right now, too: “I take my new role as Volunteer Fundraising Ambassador for the Duchess of Kent very seriously and I always do my very best.”

And with lunch with the Queen around the corner, there’s clearly a lot to look forward to: “I am so thrilled just to have been nominated for The Patrons Lunch! I can’t wait to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday and am just really looking forward to being a part of what is going to be a very special day.”

Rewarding our volunteers outstanding contribution

Holly Spiers, Director of Hospices and Fundraising at Sue Ryder said: “We are delighted to be involved in this iconic event recognising the support and service our Monarch has given over her 63 year reign. We are recognising and celebrating the achievements of volunteers and supporters who have gone the extra mile in making an outstanding contribution to the work of Sue Ryder by inviting them along to celebrate at this special event.

“It was a difficult job to find just 20 but we have selected some incredible people who deserve to be thanked and rewarded for their contribution and support by being our representatives at the party. Without their support, we simply could not exist”.

Her Majesty the Queen will be joined by the Duke of Edinburgh and other members of the Royal Family to celebrate the occasion. Their Royal Highnesses, The Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry will reside as Joint-Presidents of The Patron’s Lunch; honouring the dedication shown by Her Majesty to so many charities and organisations. The day itself promises to deliver an electric festival-themed atmosphere that can be enjoyed by the guests on The Mall and the general public who will be able to soak up the festivities at large screens situated in the Royal Parks, Green Park and St James’s Park.