“Volunteering is a great way to achieve personal goals.”

Following the loss of his mother at St John’s Hospice in February 2016, Chris Hall discovered volunteering and has never looked back. Here, he recalls his first forays into volunteering, how it led to a paid job and what it was like to conquer his latest challenge for Sue Ryder: cycling to all seven hospices across the UK in just five days.

Chris, Darren and their bikes next to hospice staff with a "Go Chris & Darren go!" sign.
The support from the hospices that Chris and Darren stopped at en route really kept them going.
A crowd assembles to cheer Chris and Darren at the finish line 546
A crowd cheered Chris and Darren at the finish line.
Chris and Darren at the finish line with their arms round each other.
The pair describe completing the challenge as a "great achievement".

I had worked in the finance sector for over 15 years, but found that it was making me really anxious and unhappy. 

After my Mum’s death, I decided to leave and take a short career break to assess what was important to me. 

I knew I wanted to give something back to Sue Ryder in return for the amazing care and dignity they had given Mum. I also saw volunteering as a great opportunity to utilise my skills and passion for the cause, safe in the knowledge that I would be making Mum proud. 

Using my skills

When I asked the St John’s Hospice team if I could volunteer, they suggested I become a Volunteer Fundraiser. Interestingly, despite having worked in finance, one small problem occurred to me: I wasn’t comfortable asking people for money. But then, over the Christmas 2016 period, I helped support and run a new St John’s event that raised over £2,000 for the charity; after that, asking for money became a little easier.

The following January, an opportunity came up for a paid position with Sue Ryder as the Volunteer Database Officer, which I applied for and happily got. This meant I was able to develop my skills and experience whilst remaining on as a volunteer at St John’s Hospice, helping out at various events throughout the year including cycling 100 miles in July as part of Prudential RideLondon 2017. 

This got me thinking: what challenge could I do next?

A truly unique challenge

I thought it would be a really good idea to raise awareness of all the palliative care hubs and centres the charity runs while at the same time raising money for care – and to complete a challenge no one else had attempted before.

I decided to cycle all seven Sue Ryder hospices, covering 365 miles, in five days during June 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.

Seven hospices in five days

Our starting point in West Yorkshire was from the upland heights of Manorlands Hospice, heading pleasantly downhill to Wheatfields Hospice in Leeds and then on to Lincoln – having covered 100 miles in total – where we stayed overnight. 

On day two, we cycled from Lincoln to Thorpe Hall Hospice in Peterborough, managing a distance of 65 miles, and were spurred on to finish in time for the England vs Costa Rica World Cup game kick-off. 

The map of Chris's route.
The map of Chris's route covering 350 miles.

Day three saw us set off from Thorpe Hall and cycle the 50 miles to St John’s Hospice in Bedford, enjoying the open air and beauty of the rolling hills and sunshine. 

We covered 75 miles the next day, cycling to Nettlebed Hospice [now known as the South Oxfordshire Palliative Care Hub] and then Duchess of Kent Hospice in Reading.

On the final day – by this time very saddle sore and exhausted! – we cycled the closing 75-mile leg of the ride, going 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, we felt utterly victorious as we were greeted and cheered on by staff. Finally, we could celebrate by downing a few well-earned pints in the local pub.

“A great feeling of achievement”

Despite steep hills, minor mechanical problems and fatigue along the way, we loved every minute of the challenge and were spurred on by our determination to raise money for such a worthy cause. 

It was a great feeling of achievement to complete the challenge and I hope other supporters will consider taking it up too! 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 is interested.

As I come up to two years’ spent volunteering, my anxiety has reduced, I’m much happier and I know my Mum is proud. I continue to support Sue Ryder so it can continue to support others the way St John’s Hospice did my family.

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Author

Chris Hall

Challenge volunteer and Volunteer Database Officer

Chris Hall

Following the death of his mother at our Sue Ryder St John's Hospice, Chris left his job in finance, began volunteering with Sue Ryder and has never looked back. He recently cycled round all seven Sue Ryder hospices in five days, raising valuable funds.