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Trekking Everest for the Dyson Cancer Centre

Thanks to Penny Slayton’s determination to show support for our RUH Cancer Campaign, she’s raised more than £1,500 for the new Dyson Cancer Centre.

She said: “I got the fundraising bug in 2017 after completing a wing walk. I decided that my next adventure was a trek to Everest base camp to raise more funds. I started training, gradually increasing distance, time and backpack weight. I trekked with eight others including Australians, Americans, Canadians, and five Sherpas. The Sherpas were fantastic; they were great company and looked after us all amazingly.

“There were so many highlights – climbing Kala Patthar at 18,000ft to watch the sun set over Everest was just magical, camping in minus 12 degrees and waking up with frosty eyelashes, and hearing the boom of the avalanches. Also flying into Lukla, the world’s most dangerous airport, with the Himalayan peaks above the helicopter, and walking along the valleys with helicopters flying below you. The scale of the place is mind-blowing!

“The biggest challenge of all was the altitude. You feel your body working harder to compensate for the lack of oxygen – it wasn’t a nice feeling. Walking on the narrow track got tricky especially when a convoy of yaks came towards us. And the loos, well there’s no further explanation needed!

“It’s great to know that the money I’ve raised will help future patients. I was diagnosed with cancer in June 2012 and this amount is a little gesture to say thanks to the incredibly caring, supportive and professional team at the RUH.”

Thank you Penny for taking your steps for the RUH.

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Sophie’s story – why Therapies Matter

“After sustaining sports-related injuries in 2004, requiring intensive physiotherapy, I was in constant, chronic pain, extremely fatigued, and subsequently diagnosed with Fibromyalgia (FM) in 2006.

“I joined the first therapy-led Fibromyalgia Self-management Programme (FSMP) at the RNHRD in 2007, where I learned strategies to manage the pain, fatigue, and cognitive dysfunctions (‘fibro-fog’).

“I was delighted to be invited and become a member of the team to support the programme as the first Rheumatology Expert Patient volunteer in 2008.

“The confidence and support that I received, helped me to consider studying part-time for an Open University degree.  I achieved my lifetime goal, this July 2017, gaining a BSc (Hons) Psychology degree just before my 60th birthday!

Sophie Moss landscape removed name


“To say that I was, and still am over-the-moon, is an understatement, proving it is possible to achieve your dreams with the appropriate support.

“The benefit of FSMP being therapy-led, is that it is an educational one, which is based on current research, drawing on the expertise of healthcare professionals. However, it is interactive, requiring patient commitment and involvement, to make the changes necessary to improve their quality of life.

“I owe a lot to this unique programme, and would highly recommend it.”

If you’d like make a donation towards the new RNHRD and Therapies Centre, you can make it via our website or through JustGiving.com


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Vikki’s story – why Therapies Matter

Vikki Knowles explains why the RNHRD and Therapies Centre means so much to her…

” In 2014 following a routine operation I developed severe pain and stiffness in my neck, shoulders and pelvis. This progressed quite rapidly and I became severely incapacitated with my husband having to help me wash, dress and manage everyday activities. I did manage to keep working in a limited capacity but the pain and stiffness was very difficult to manage at work. Getting in and out of my car was especially difficult and as a community specialist nurse this was possibly the worst aspect.

“I was referred to a Rheumatologist who diagnosed me with Polymyalgia Rheumatica (PMR). I was started on oral steroids and told that this would sort out all my problems. However, I wasn’t comfortable with the diagnosis as the symptoms seemed more extensive that those seen with PMR as the pain and stiffness continued to cause problems. I also experienced severe fatigue and interrupted sleep pattern.

“My GP who had been supportive referred me for a second opinion. Dr Chander, the second consultant I saw was extremely thorough and agreed that this did not look like PMR. Following extensive investigations and I was diagnosed with non-radiologic axial spondylitis.

“It was at this point I joined the National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society (NASS) and heard about the Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) course being run at the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases (RNHRD).

“In April 2017, I started the two week AS course. It was a revelation, the staff are amazing. I was lucky to be with a great group and we have forged a really close supportive network, which has helped keep us all motivated. Following the course I have gained pretty much full mobility and can now do all the things I was unable to do prior to attending including getting in and out of my car.

“The educational component of the AS course is also of great value as even though I am a nurse I learned so much more about living with the condition. It equips you with the tools to maintain a healthy lifestyle and keep you moving but it depends on the individual continuing to practice what they have learnt. I have started yoga and Tai Chi as recommended and do my exercises regularly so that on my six month post course review my scores had continued to improve. I would never have achieved this had I not been lucky enough to have access to the group as there is no local AS services where I live.

“Attending the AS course has truly changed my life and I feel so grateful to have had such excellent support from the wonderful staff at the RNHRD.”

If you’d like make a donation towards the new RNHRD and Therapies Centre, you can make it via our website (click here) or through JustGiving.com

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Freemasons present cheques to The Appeal

We say a huge thank you to two Freemason Lodges; Devizes-based Moonraker Lodge and the Warminster Longleat Lodge. Members from both lodges kindly presented the Appeal with two cheques for patient care at the Royal United Hospitals, (RUH) Bath.

Ken Rake, the Worshipful Master of the Moonraker Masonic Lodge presented Jan Witt, the Appeal’s In Memory & Legacy Officer with a cheque for £900 raised specifically towards The Kelly Ross Fund which was set up through the Appeal in support of the RUH Cancer Care Campaign.

Jan holding cheque

At the presentation, Ken said: “Every year the Master of the Moonraker Masonic Lodge raises money for their chosen charity. This year, l decided to split the money between The Forever Friends Appeal in memory of my niece Kelly Ross and The Caen Hill Community Farm. Kelly Ross, sadly died from cancer aged just 32, and a tribute fund was set up in her name to raise money for the RUH where she was treated.

“We’ve raised this amount by organising events throughout the year for our members. Highlights include the Ladies Festival, which took place at Blunsdon House Hotel, a skittles evening, quizzes, ghost walks and treasure hunt raffles. At these events prizes were donated, so we’d like to thank everyone for their support.”

South of Devizes, members of the Longleat Lodge in Warminster have been helping fundraise for the Radiotherapy department at the RUH. Worshipful Master Bill said:

“Dirk Pinnell and I have undergone Radiotherapy for Cancer whilst in office as Worshipful Master so I decided that I would raise money for the Radiotherapy Department as one of my chosen charities this year. I had great pleasure in presenting a further cheque from the Lodge for £750 having already presented one for £1,100 in January this year and I’m delighted that it will go towards funding equipment for patients.”

Radiotherapy cheque donation resized

Jan said: “Every year we are amazed by the generosity of our supporters who help the hospital in difficult ways. This kind of support enables staff to deliver the very best care for their patients at the RUH.

“We are especially humbled by the continuous support of families and friends who set up a Forever Fund through the Appeal in memory of their loved ones and continue to fundraise time and time again in their honour. Kelly’s Forever Fund has continued to grow each year and over £15,000 has been raised towards the care of patients treated for cancer at the RUH.”

If you are interested in setting up a Tribute Fund to celebrate a loved one’s life and keep their memory alive, please click here

Did you know – a Freemason is guided by three principles, Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth and a Freemasons’ Lodge will support a charitable organisation known to its members and where there is a special affinity; such as a group or cause which has helped a family member or friend. To find out about the Lodges which are part of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Wiltshire, click here


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Peru trekkers raise an incredible £58,000

Twenty nine fundraisers have raised over £58,000 for The Forever Friends Appeal by completing one of the world’s most iconic trekking trails, the awe-inspiring Inca Trail in Peru.

Peru Trekkers at Machu Picchu

The group signed up to the Appeal’s Inca Trail challenge months in advance of departure, with the goal to trek up to 52km at high altitude to the lost city of Incas to earn every bit of their sponsorship. As well as training to take on the tough physical challenge, they have spent a lot of their spare time fundraising by holding cake sales, car boots, quiz nights, and bucket collections.

The total amount raised will go towards the Appeal’s major campaigns; the Cancer Centre and the RNHRD and Therapies Centre, which will both be built near the front of the Royal United Hospitals, (RUH) Bath.

The charity challenge began in the Inca Capital Cusco, with an acclimatisation trek at an altitude of 3,200m. The next day, they set off to conquer the one and only Inca Trail that leads to Machu Picchu – the world’s most important archaeological find and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

As well as enduring six to eight hours per day of walking across tough terrain, the group camped under the stars each night, and climbed from 3,000m to 4,200m reaching iconic features such as the  ‘Dead Woman’s Pass’, passing through cloud forests, and reaching a glacier. On the third day they conquered two remaining mountain passes and reached the Sun Gate on day four with the view of Machu Picchu, which they then explored. Daniela Weate, from Frome said:

“I wanted to do the Inca Trail trek because my sister Jules and I had Machu Picchu on our ‘bucket list’. But sadly she died of cancer before we got to do it together. So, when I heard about The Forever Friends Appeal were going to trek the Inca Trail, I thought it was a great opportunity to do ‘our trek’ and raise money for the RUH’s new Cancer Centre.

“My favourite memory was on the route up to Dead Woman’s Pass. Four of us struggled with the altitude but we looked after each other, and were helped by our two amazing guides Elias and Yammie. We called ourselves the Musketeers, and laughed and cried our way along the route. The whole team became an amazing supportive family.”

Chris Scott, from Neston said:

“I’m so glad I achieved the trek. It was far more challenging than I expected but the scenery and wildlife were amazing –  I loved seeing humming birds and wild orchids, it was something I will never forget along with the emotional feeling I had (a few tears were shed) when we passed through the Sun Gate at the entrance of Machu Picchu.

“My favourite memory though (and I think for a few others in the group) was getting a ‘piggy back’ on one of the Porters on the way down, as it was getting dark. The speed he ran down the path was insane, but fun. I had no fear he would drop me as they are so sure footed and strong.”

With the success of the Inca Trail Trek, The Forever Friends Appeal are now looking for another group of adventurous fundraisers to take part in their 2018 Grand Canyon trek. As well as taking on this natural wonder, the trek also includes hiking the trails of two other National Parks in South West USA, Zion Canyon and Bryce Canyon.

An information evening will be held at the RUH on Tuesday 23 January 2018 with talks from the trek leader of Global Adventure Challenge who work with The Forever Friends Appeal team, and there’ll be an opportunity to hear some of the experiences from the Peru trekkers. To book your place call Laura, Events and Community Officer on: 01225 821535 or click here for more information.

Below are a few of the amazing photos from the Trek

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The Helen Straker Charity raises £36,000 for The Forever Friends Appeal

On Tuesday 5 December the Helen Straker Charity announced it has raised £72,000 during 2017 in aid of two charities, The Forever Friends Appeal and Dorothy House Hospice Care. Both charities received £36,000 each at a cheque presentation held at The Bear Hotel in Devizes as they were the two favourite charities of Helen Straker, late wife of Gordon Straker, who died in 2013 and was an active fundraiser throughout her life.

Gordon Straker (central) presents cheques to Dorothy House Hospice and RUH. Photo: Siobhan Boyle SMB2257/4

This year’s fundraising total by the Helen Straker Charity was raised across the year at a number of events including their annual golf day and clay pigeon shoot plus a generous contribution from the Devizes Lions Club.  This follows another great year of fundraising last year when the Helen Straker Charity raised a total of £80,000.

A proactive fundraiser for both the new Cancer Centre which will be built at the Royal United Hospitals, Bath and Dorothy House Hospice Care, Helen Straker sadly lost her brave fight against cancer in 2013.  Her husband, Gordon Straker, continued Helen’s impressive fundraising efforts and The Helen Straker Charity was officially registered in 2014. The charity now organises a variety of fundraising events each year including golf days, clay pigeon shoots, dinners, balls and comedy nights.

Gordon Straker, Trustee of the Helen Straker Charity said: “My thanks to all the companies, individuals and sponsors who supported the charity this year. Well done to all involved it’s a great achievement. We are proud to have raised £72,000 in funds for Helen’s two chosen charities this year as her aim in life was to help others and it is very satisfying to be able to continue her legacy as she would have wished.”

Jan Witt, In Memory & Legacy Officer, The Forever Friends Appeal said: “On behalf of the Appeal, I personally would like to thank the Trustees of the Helen Straker charity for their continued support, commitment and raising funds for the RUH’s pioneering new Cancer Centre which will provide a highly beneficial healing environment, transforming care for patients and their families. In recognition for their superb fundraising efforts totalling £150,000 in just three years, the Helen Straker Charity are now Principal Family Partners of The Forever Friends Appeal, meaning they will have a naming opportunity for one of the specialist areas or departments within the new Cancer Centre.”

Strakers receive plaque from the Forever Friends Appeal

Phillippa Watson, Head of Fundraising at Dorothy House Hospice Care said: “Many congratulations to the charity for raising such significant funds once again in 2017, it is greatly appreciated and will help Dorothy House continue to provide specialist care for people living with a life-limiting illness. We are extremely grateful to Gordon Straker, the charity Trustees and to the Devizes Lions Club this year for all their hard work and fundraising efforts.  Dorothy House cared for Helen during her battle with cancer and we’re proud to remain a beneficiary of the Helen Straker Charity.”

For information about the Helen Straker Charity please contact Gordon Straker on: 01380 720 371.  To donate to The Forever Friends Appeal click here or to volunteer for Dorothy House Hospice Care please visit www.dorothyhouse.org.uk

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Michael Eavis is 2018 Walk of Life Ambassador

We’re delighted to announce Michael Eavis CBE as Ambassador for our 2018 Walk of Life. He will officially mark the start of the Walk of Life event, a 26.2-mile walking marathon that will take place on 12 May 2018. People are encouraged to sign up now to take part.

Michael Eavis at the RUH

The Walk of Life is an annual event which starts at The Crown Inn, Bishops Cannings and follows the the Kennet and Avon canal, finishing in Bath. There is also an option for people to take part in the afternoon and walk the 10 miles from Bradford-On-Avon to Bath.

It was created with and in memory of Vanessa Kyte, who passed away from cancer in 2007.  Every year, Vanessa’s family and friends love seeing the Walk grow and help raise even more funds for the cause that was so close to Vanessa’s heart.

This year, 500 people from across Bath, Somerset and Wiltshire took part and raised funds for the Appeal and a record amount was raised, over £130,000 by individuals and corporate sponsorship for the Appeal’s major fundraising campaigns and RUH wards.

Tim Hobbs, Head of Fundraising, The Forever Friends Appeal said:

“The Walk of Life is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the life and memories of your loved ones. We were overwhelmed by the incredible amount raised this year and are extremely grateful to everyone for their support and making it a sellout.

“We are thrilled to have Michael join us as he is a big supporter of ours and he gave our walkers a great send-off this year. We are really looking forward to next year’s event as it’s one of the Appeal’s highlights in our event calendar.

“Fundraising for the RUH and its patients is vital and the funds are going towards the build of our new Cancer Centre, the new RNHRD and Therapies Centre as well as other departments in the RUH.”

To celebrate the success of this year’s Walk of Life event, we invited Michael to come and meet James Scott, RUH Chief Executive and staff.

Places for the 2017 Walk of Life sold out months before the event, so to avoid disappointment, interested walkers are invited to sign up as soon as possible..

General entry places and Corporate Challenge places for business teams for the Walk of Life cost £20 and everyone who signs up will receive a t-shirt, medal and refreshments along the way.  Sign up today

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The RNHRD and Therapies Centre information & tour event

The RUH is holding an information and tour event for people interested in finding out about the new purpose-built RNHRD and Therapies Centre which will be located close to the main entrance of the RUH.

The event will take place in the Therapies Department at the RUH on Thursday 17 August and will start at 6pm, finishing at 7:30pm. It’s open to everyone including people who have already made a donation towards the RNHRD and Therapies Centre Campaign.

RUH therapists and clinicians will host the information evening and will share the vision of the new RNHRD and Therapies Centre which has been designed in conjunction with patients and clinicians.

The RNHRD & Therapies Centre

Gina Sargeant, Head of Therapies at the RUH said:

“We hope to welcome as many people as possible who have interest in the new centre and supporting us. At the event, you’ll find out about our exciting RNHRD and Therapies Centre, its progress as part of the hospital’s redevelopment programme, as well as have a tour around our existing therapies department. You’ll learn how patients in the future will benefit from being treated in a patient-centred environment that is essential for supporting their healing process.

“We know that approximately over 75,000 patients will visit this new building every year to access our range of services and every patient is important as the next. Whether they visit once or twice for an acute sports injury, need a course of treatment, such as after a heart attack they’d have cardiac rehabilitation or come regularly to learn self-management of their condition, this new centre will offer something for every RUH patient journey.”

The new building will bring together many of the services currently located at the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases (RNHRD and in RUH North, namely rheumatology, therapies and pain management services under one roof.

Gina said:

“Come to this event and our therapists will talk about the dedicated specialist facilities which will be provided in the new RNHRD and Therapies Centre. You will also hear about our fundraising campaign run by our hospital charity, The Forever Friends Appeal and find out about the ‘Match Funding Challenge’ set up by the Brownsword Charitable Foundation to help raise the £2m towards the total cost of the building.”

Information about the variety of events organised by The Forever Friends Appeal will also be available for people who want to help raise funds towards the new centre.

Interested in attending this event? Call Alix on 01225 825931 or email alixramelli@nhs.net to reserve your seat. Alternatively, for more information about the RNHRD and Therapies Centre click here

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