Challenge Series Archives - East Cheshire Hospice

A million metres in May challenge

Cyclist Darren Smith is involved in a race against time to complete a million metres in May.

At the halfway stage he is well on course to ride 1,000 kilometres in aid of East Cheshire Hospice.

His journey is dedicated to the memory of his father-in-law Brian Barker who died in March, aged 77.

Brian was a long-standing volunteer for the Hospice’s Christmas tree collection scheme, forging a close connection with the Hospice.

Brian Barker who was a volunteer for East Cheshire Hospice.

Darren, from Macclesfield, had intended cycling to Belgium as a fundraising challenge but the trip was cancelled due to Brian’s sudden death.

Darren said: “I wanted to keep my promise to raise funds and would have travelled about 1,000 kilometres by going to Belgium.

“Instead, I decided to ride the same distance – a million metres – throughout May. That means I’m cycling between 30 to 40 kilometres most days, with longer rides at weekends.”

Work commitments have complicated the challenge for Darren, a director of Manuka Money, a Gawsworth-based mortgage broker.

He said: “I set up the brokerage two years ago. Having worked for big corporates, I was acutely aware of how people can get lost in the process so we provide a more personalised concierge service.

“Our company is getting behind my bike ride to let everyone know about the Hospice’s wonderful work. I’m trying to turn a negative into a positive and make it a fitting tribute to Brian and all those who receive care there.”

Darren is visiting as many of the communities served by the Hospice, supported by wife Sammy, son Sebastian (14) and daughter Abigail (10).

An issue is a family holiday in the Lake District in the last week of May. He said: I may be sweating over the hills there if I don’t get enough metres covered by then.

Darren Smith (far right) with (from left) business partner Carl Atkinson, Hospice fundraiser Luke Oldham and Manuka Money’s head of marketing Alison Barber. 

“At 6ft 2in, I’m built more for rugby than cycling. I only got into the sport by going on a friend’s 50th birthday weekend and we ended up cycling in the Alps between Italy and Slovenia. I just enjoy the outdoors”.

“Brian was always amazed by how little revenue the Hospice gets from the government. The charity relies heavily on donations and charity events like mine.”

* To sponsor Darren visit

Harry Newton takes on Great Manchester Run 2024

Running machine Harry Newton is raring to go for his next big challenge later this month.

The 86-year-old grandad has entered the AJ Bell Great Manchester Run on Sunday, May 26.

Harry Newton who has raised more than £50,000 for charity from running.

Harry will skip the 10k event, preferring to tackle an alternative half marathon which might seem like a stroll after another stirring performance in last month’s London marathon.

The Macclesfield Harrier raised £1,700 for East Cheshire Hospice from his endeavours, bringing his total raised for various charities over the years to well over £50,000.

Harry said: “Running keeps me fit and I’ll keep going as long as my body allows me. The Hospice does wonderful work for the community and the prospect of raising money is a big motivator when the going gets tough near the end of a race.”

Harry was thought to be the fastest over 85 in the London marathon, his time of six hours 19 minutes earning him seventh place in the over 80 category.

The retired grocer is already eyeing up next year’s London race, though tempting wife Phyllis to run is a non-starter.

Harry said: “Phyllis is my No 1 fan and is always there cheering me on from the sidelines with family and friends. She’s not a runner, though, and prefers to be among the crowd.”

Harry has now completed 29 marathons, an incredible achievement considering his first was at the age of 57. His favourite has been the London marathon which he has completed 21 times.

Steve Nixon enjoys going for a relaxing run

Steve Nixon enjoys going for a relaxing run – whether driving his veteran car or wearing running shoes.

He will need to go the extra mile when he attempts to run the length of Hadrian’s Wall in aid of East Cheshire Hospice in June.

The gruelling 70-mile adventure will be the toughest challenge yet for Steve who warmed up last weekend by competing in the Madrid marathon.

Steve after completing the London Marathon in 2013.

Steve and wife Beverley often enjoy driving through Macclesfield in their dark green 1913 Model T F0rd. The collector’s item also appears at Macclesfield parkrun and veteran car rallies.

As does their 1903 Darracq which has been used by the Tytherington couple for the London to Brighton Run.

However, the two motoring masterpieces will stay in the garage when Steve undertakes his epic run from Carlisle Castle to Newcastle.

Instead, Beverley will drive their Ford Fiesta as support vehicle, aiming to call at five pit stops along the way.

A classic look … Steve and Beverley in costume with their Model T Ford. 

Steve said: “I’ll need some moral support, plus new socks no doubt! The route is a mixture of roads, paths and cross-country.

“It starts at 7 am with a 26-hour limit and I aim to complete the course in under 18 hours, hopefully with a westerly wind to push me along.”

Steve, a semi-retired business executive, has run marathons in 10 different locations, including Paris and Athens. The Lisbon race is on his schedule for October, while his first was in London in 2013.

He said: “I’ve had a few relatives and friends pass through the Hospice which is why my Hadrian’s Wall run is for them.

“They’re a local charity and gave me my first entry to the London marathon so I’ve always felt a certain allegiance to the Hospice.

The Nixons at Hyde Park Corner in their 1903 Darracq for the London to Brighton run.

“A lot of those supporting me also have some connection to the Hospice.

“The furthest I’ve run before is 35 miles over the hilly Gritstone Trail. The Wall, as it is known, is twice as far with a total climb of almost 4,000 feet.

“I wanted to do something big for my next challenge. Like any marathon, it’ll be more mental than physical. Keeping moving and staying focused will be hard work.

“Unlike the city marathons the 1,500 runners will be spread out so I may run many miles on my own before reaching the next pit stop.”

* To sponsor Steve visit

Why not take the plunge and make a bungee jump for East Cheshire Hospice?

Why not take the plunge and make a bungee jump for East Cheshire Hospice?

Thrill-seekers are invited to take a giant leap over Tatton Park in aid of the much-loved Hospice.

Organisers the UK Bungee Club claim the 300 ft drop is the highest regular jump in the country.

Fundraiser Luke Hughes who is organising a bungee challenge.

The Hospice has partnered with Run for Charity for the event held over a picturesque lake on the weekends of April 13/14, July 6/7 and October 12/13.

Entrants will have a few seconds to appreciate the vast deer park and stunning scenery before leaping off a platform suspended from a crane.

Luke Hughes, Community and Events Assistant at the Hospice, said: “Dare you get involved in this exciting challenge? It’s not for the faint-hearted but it may be on your bucket list.

Fundraiser Luke Hughes who is organising a bungee challenge.

“We know from experience that lots of our supporters take part in wild and wacky adventures to raise funds and hopefully this challenge will appeal to those with a head for heights.

“This is the first time we’ve teamed up with Run for Charity and there will be lots more challenges available in the future.

“The benefit is that we don’t need to worry about the logistics and cost of putting on these events, but it’s easy for supporters to sign up and support the Hospice.”

To enter visit

Entry is £120 (plus £4.80 booking fee) and entrants must agree to raise £200 for the Hospice.

Hospice team take on Born Survivor!

Bereavement counsellor Helen Wilkinson will not take no for an answer recruiting volunteers for a Born Survivor challenge.

She has already persuaded several colleagues from East Cheshire Hospice to join her tackling a 10k assault course at Capesthorne Hall on Saturday, April 27.

Helen said: “I’m still trying to rope people in. A lot of people seem to be busy that weekend and everyone is welcome to join us.”

* To enter visit

Volunteers include Liam Lawton from accounts, wife Claire and his sister Hannah. They are taking part in memory of Liam’s grandmother Glenise who died in the Hospice last June.

The Hospice team in the Born Survivor event. From left, Luke Hughes, Hannah Bentham, Liam Lawton, Laura Lamptey, Helen Wilkinson, Debbie Kassas and Sue Milligan.

Glenise would have been 80 on the day of the event, making it an event more poignant occasion for the family.

Other members of the Hospice team are People and Development Lead Laura Lamptey and HR advisor Hannah Bentham.

Hospice @Home sister Sue Milligan and Dementia Lead/Specialist Nurse Debbie Kassas are also competing, along with fundraiser Luke Oldham and long-serving volunteer Janet Dean who helps out mainly on reception.

Helen said: “It’s a privilege to work at the Hospice as a therapist providing counselling to family and friends before and after their loved one has died.

“Working with people at their very core. This challenge is for you, your loved ones and our amazing team who I’m lucky to work with.”

* To sponsor Helen visit

Grace Williams and her family grateful of East Cheshire Hospice’s support

East Cheshire Hospice came to the rescue not once but twice for Grace Williams and her family.

Her late husband Jon was supported in 2015 when he was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour.

Then four years later her uncle Paul Waddell (62) died in the Hospice from the same illness.

Grace is raising funds for the charity through a Born Survivor event at Capesthorne Hall on Saturday, April 27.

Grace and her late husband Jon both received support from East Cheshire Hospice.

Grace said: “We thought we had our whole lives ahead of us, with a one-year-old daughter Alana. But Jon was gone three months after diagnosis, aged 30. I was 27.

“When we first walked into the Hospice it was like getting a big hug. Everything from emotional support to physical equipment Jon so desperately needed was given to us once we arrived.

“I was stressed and not eating or sleeping. The Hospice provided respite and a safe place for us, including having meals together. I didn’t want to leave Jon as I knew I didn’t have long left with him.

“They introduced us to patients, carers and nurses who made him feel he wasn’t alone. That shared experience was so powerful.

“Rooms were like home from home. It didn’t smell clinical and wasn’t formal.

Grace’s uncle and auntie, Paul and Lindsay Wadde

“Jon felt comfortable there and received complementary therapies. I had counselling with Fay Mitchell and don’t think I’d be here without her.

“Fay helped me process the trauma of what had been going on.”

Grace was still receiving counselling when her uncle was admitted.

Grace, a graphic designer, said: “Incredibly, our family, including my auntie Lindsay, found ourselves back in the world of the Hospice. Paul passed away surrounded by the same amazing people who’d looked after Jon.

“I was there a lot with my uncle and everyone still remembered me. I could even see Paul’s room from Fay’s window.

“Staff kept us well informed and gave us plenty of hugs. They did everything. It sounds stupid but they would appear next to you with a brew.

“It was like they had a sixth sense of what will help. Working at the Hospice is definitely a calling in life.

“If I could afford to quit my job, I’d be there like a shot to volunteer. I feel I’ve got so much to give back to them which is why I’m doing this challenge.”

*To sponsor Grace visit

To enter Born Survivor visit

The daring endeavours of the Bentham brothers

The daring endeavours of the Bentham brothers show no sign of ending despite reaching their fundraising target.

George and Tom have raised £7,548 for East Cheshire Hospice where their late father Mark (58) was a patient four years ago.

More than two thirds came from a gruelling 195-mile coast-to-coast canoe challenge lasting nine days, taking the brothers from the Irish Sea to the North Sea.

They met their goal of raising the cost of a day’s care at the Hospice by completing a Born Survivor, while Tom also completed a triathlon even though he dislikes cycling.

Back on dry land … Tom Bentham (left) and brother George.

Tom said: “I’m petrified of cycling after a motorbike crash when I was young, and the roads are just too dangerous. I’ll stick to the water from now on.”

The swim element in north Wales was cancelled due to fog but Tom, joined by friends Martin Thomson and Tom Bickersteth, still insisted on doing the water discipline once the race ended, honouring a promise to donors to complete a triathlon.

The brothers have their sights set on running a marathon in 2025.

Tom and George tackling their canoeing challenge.

Tom said: “We’re delighted we’ve done what we set out to do in our dad’s memory. It’s fantastic to raise so much for such a vitally important cause in his name and fund those who need hospice services next.

“We still have our canoe and will probably take to water again at some point. We’ve wanted to do a marathon and what better place than Athens, the birthplace of the event!”

A successful Firewalk story

Greeting visitors with a warm smile comes naturally to Anne Brander and Julie Mills as volunteers on reception at East Cheshire Hospice.

But stepping over hot coals for the same good cause was well out of their comfort zone.

The friends braved a Fire Walk along with other fundraisers at Macclesfield Rugby Club, with some also tackling an Ice Walk over broken glass.

The pair settled just for the challenge of the burning embers and for Anne the Hospice has a special place in her heart.

Late husband Angus was a patient there in 1996. He was just 42 when he died from lung cancer.

Ready to face the fire … fundraisers get a warm reception.

Anne said: “The Fire Walk was something I wanted to do for the Hospice. Angus loved it there and it was the right place for him in his final days.

“They looked after the whole family, including our daughters Clare and Alison who were 16 and 10 at the time.

“He was peaceful and comfortable there and all these years later it’s nice to see how the Hospice has grown and how things have moved on and developed.

“Working on reception is varied meeting all sorts of people. You’re the first point of contact and it’s important you have a welcoming smiley face.

Volunteers Anne Brander (left) and Julie Mills at the Fire Walk. 

“I felt a great sense of achievement doing the Fire Walk. There was a great atmosphere with everyone cheering each other on and I was proud to be part of it.

“I was slightly nervous and excited but wasn’t scared. It was something I really wanted to do.”

Anne and Julie met through education circles. Anne worked at Wilmslow High School and both attended admissions appeals with Julie employed by Cheshire East Council.

Julie said: “We go back a while and got together and said let’s have a go at the Fire Walk.

“We supported each other and the Hospice and also to prove to ourselves that we can do silly things at our age.

“We’re aware how much it costs to keep the Hospice going and it’s much needed by the community.

“Volunteering is rewarding. I like meeting people and wanted to do something for the community when I retired.

“I was apprehensive but common sense told me it’s mind over matter. Someone won’t ask me to do something when I’m going to get injured. I’m not saying I won’t do the Ice Walk next time.”

Monika Pollard is always reaching for heights

Playing basketball means Monika Pollard is always reaching for heights.

But climbing to Everest base camp was a different ball game altogether.

Monika, who owns Tiny Adventures children’s day nursery in Macclesfield, was fundraising for East Cheshire Hospice.

The trip was in memory of her mother-in-law Theresa Connolly who died almost 10 years ago, aged 73.

Monika, a keen hiker, had always wanted to undertake an Everest expedition, though her adventure was more eventful than planned.

Monika Pollard on her Everest climb.

She said: “We were supposed to fly to Lukla, the second most dangerous airport in the world, but it was closed due to bad weather.

“Instead, we drove through Nepal in a jeep for more than 24 hours and then slept for barely three hours before a 12-hour walk on the first day.

“It meant we were thrown in at the deep end, adding a further 30 kilometres to our walk which was 140k altogether.

“It took us 10 days to get to base camp where I suffered terrible altitude sickness. So much so I felt like I was drunk.

Mission accomplished … Monika at base camp.

“I was with two other girls and it was so bad that on the way down we got a helicopter ride back to Katmandu.

“The hike was much harder than anticipated. I’m physically fit, but I struggled breathing as the air was so thin.

“No one prepares for you how difficult it is mentally. At first, I said I’d never do it again, but if someone asked me I’d return.

“Walking is not a problem for me. I play basketball and am physically fit.”

Monika is a member of the Macc Town Raiders and Congleton Grizzlies basketball teams.

Monika with fellow climbers.

Team-mates have supported her fundraising which has reached £1,584. Husband Kevin works for the London Stock Exchange which may match fund the total.

Monika, from Slovakia, has also put collection buckets at her two nurseries and the Hospice charity shop at Thornton Square.

She said: “I decided to raise funds for Hospice because we live in Macclesfield and all our friends are here. I had a wonderful relationship with my mother-in-law who was devoted to her four granddaughters.

Monika enjoying the view.

“She was supposed to go into a hospice near her home in Burnley, but didn’t live long enough due to her oesophageal cancer.

“Hospices wouldn’t exist without fundraising and they provide palliative care at the time of greatest need.”

* To donate visit

Hospice Chaplain takes on Fire and Ice Walk

East Cheshire Hospice Chaplain Marion Tugwood is the latest to accept the brave challenge of a Fire and Ice Walk.

There are still a few spaces left if you can pluck up the courage to tread on hot coals and broken glass.

There is a choice of one or both challenges on Thursday, November 9, at Macclesfield Rugby Club.

Hospice Chaplain Marion Tugwood who is tackling a Fire and Ice Walk.

Funeral director Richard Morrey persuaded Marion to take part. He said: “I know Marion very well and encouraged her to get out of her high heels and walk on hot coals.”

Marion said: “I’m happy to take up the challenge, especially as the event is about raising funds for the Hospice. In for a penny in for a pound, so I’ll be doing both the Fire and Ice walks.”

Richard did the fire challenge in 2018. He said: “It was wonderful. The coaching instructor was amazing and we felt so invigorated by the end of his talk.

“They explained everything during the safety briefing and said that it won’t hurt and doesn’t burn. The advice is just to follow their simple rules.

Last year’s Fire Walk at East Cheshire Hospice.   


“I’ve watched a couple of You Tube videos of glass walks and trust the staff organising it. I’ll believe everything they tell me.

“It’s a question of mind over matter basically and putting one foot in front of the other and being careful.”

* To enter the Fire and Ice walks visit