Guest blog: JJ Kilmartin on his amazing mum and an epic fundraising venture
The hospice looked after my mum, Linnette, incredibly well over a number of years and in particular towards the end of last year during her final days as she battled breast cancer. I will never forget the wonderful nurses and carers of the hospice who, as they do for everyone, went the extra mile for my mum, me and my family. St Peter & St James is indeed a very special place and we as a family will always cherish it.
Mum fought the bravest of brave fights living with breast cancer for 10 years. I will never forget how positive and courageous she was throughout her illness and it is because of this that I wanted to do something memorable to mark her life whilst raising money to support the work of the wonderful people at St Peter & St James. I decided I wanted to cycle from London to Paris, roping in 17 of my friends, who were incredibly supportive and up for the challenge. Our aim was to raise a minimum of £7000 to sponsor a room, or if possible, to pay for a whole day of care at the hospice.
On Friday 20th July, we left Fulham early knowing that we had a herculean task ahead of us! Maybe there were a few nerves at the start, but we were all hugely excited, determined and very positive about achieving our ambition of cycling to Paris. Cycling through the early London traffic was certainly eventful! One of our riders was almost knocked off his bicycle, and another damaged his back wheel so badly we had to have it replaced! We stopped for a refreshment break at the Surrey Hills to make sure everyone was okay and that there had been no further mishaps, and then it was on to my home in North Chailey, where we all enjoyed plenty of pasta, sandwiches, energy bars, lots of water and Lucozade and a well-deserved rest for an hour or so!
From home we went to the hospice where we were greeted by the wonderful fundraising team. The hospice will always be a very special place for me and my family and I wanted all my friends to visit so they all knew why I had persuaded them to join me on our epic journey. As always the hospice was very peaceful… In fact it was a little too peaceful as we suddenly realised we were running behind schedule! Everyone waved us of and we set off for the last part of the first day’s journey from North Chailey to the ferry terminal at Newhaven. We just made it on time to get our 5.30pm ferry.
We were on the road for the start of day two at 6am with the demanding prospect of another 180km ahead of us to reach Paris. We stocked up with fluids and energy bars and off we went.
The journey through northern France consisted of many kilometres of long, low gradient hills but we made excellent progress throughout the morning. We had a couple of refreshment stops along the way, and with about 40km to go we stopped to take in the amazing view of Paris in the distance. That was when we knew we were so close to completing our journey, and what a feeling it was – it certainly gave us a final burst of energy to get the job done!
The last few kilometres were very hard on our legs and there were a number of very tired bodies as we approached the Eiffel Tower. As 5pm approached we cycled towards my dad and three friends who were there to greet us and cheer us over the finishing line – a memory I will never forget! As you can imagine we celebrated with a few glasses of champagne, in glorious sunshine, with the Eiffel Tower in the background.
It was a spectacular weekend. To cycle from London to Paris with my close friends in memory of my mum, and for such a worthwhile cause, was a weekend that I will cherish forever. our original target was to raise £7200 to pay for a day of care, but we have almost trebled that figure – truly amazing! I know Mum would have been so proud, and like me and my family, she would be totally overwhelmed by the support we have received from everyone who has made a donation to the hospice in her memory over the past three months.
A huge thank you to JJ and his friends for their incredible fundraising efforts. If you’d like to show the team your support, there’s still time to give a congratulatory donation! You can do so here.