Best friends Gary Swift and David Critchlow will be taking part in one of the world’s most spectacular pilgrimages to raise money for the Rotherham Hospital and Community Charity’s Purple Butterfly Appeal.
Gary and David, both 62, will be walking the 125km route of the Camino Portuguese from Valenca in Portugal to Santiago de Compostela in Spain in September.
The intrepid pair are completing the challenge in memory of Gary’s wife Diane, who sadly passed away at Rotherham Hospital aged 54 on 28 February 2015. They expect the gruelling walk, also known as the Portuguese Way, to take them at least two weeks to complete with the route crossing beaches and forests, Roman roads, medieval bridges, traditional towns and historic cities.
Gary, of Kiveton Park, said: “Diane was outgoing with a real zest for life. She loved the outdoors and in addition to being a Beaver Scout Leader for 15 years with the 2nd Rotherham (Thurcroft) Scout Group she was also a talented artist.
“A few weeks after her 50th birthday, Diane suffered a massive stroke which left her paralysed down her left side and blind in her left eye. This was a doubly cruel blow because Diane was left handed and she never mastered painting right handed.
“Through all the pain and struggles, Diane never lost hope or her sense of humour. But unfortunately she never recovered. I wanted to do something special to raise money in her memory and I think this challenge fits the bill perfectly.
“Diane would have been really enthusiastic about this challenge and would have loved to do it herself.”
The Purple Butterfly Appeal raises money to fund Purple Butterfly rooms. The £75,000 purpose-built rooms offer privacy and dignity to patients nearing the end of their lives, and their families. The money goes towards funding the building works, specialist equipment and facilities for loved ones to stay plus a television, fridge, microwave and a kettle.
Rotherham Hospital currently has three Purple Butterfly rooms, located on Ward A2, Fitzwilliam Ward and the Labour Ward.
Gary, a volunteer at The Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust, added: “Although there wasn’t a Purple Butterfly room available for Diane when she passed away, it would have been wonderful to have somewhere private and away from the busy ward to say our goodbyes. I hope that by fundraising in Diane’s memory we will raise the profile of the Charity’s Purple Butterfly Appeal and money to help build a fourth room at Rotherham Hospital.”
Gary and David are gearing up for the challenge by walking several times a week and are learning Spanish to enable them to travel around the route’s rural areas more easily.
“We’ve lost more than eight stone between us since we started walking and feel fitter and healthier. That’s why we have called our Purple Butterfly Appeal fundraising page ‘two fat old men walking’ which we hope will grab people’s attention and make them smile” David, of Stocksbridge, said.
“We absolutely can’t wait to go now. We think the biggest challenges will be dealing with the hot weather, finding places to stay en route and trying out our new language skills.”
Barry Mellor, Chair of the Charitable Funds Committee, also said: “The Charity is incredibly fortunate to have such dedicated and ambitious fundraisers like Gary and David. The Camino Portuguese sounds like a wonderful challenge to honour Gary’s late wife and I hope as many people as possible sponsor them to help spur them on.”
To sponsor Gary and David please visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/two-fat-old-men-walking.
For more information about the Rotherham Hospital and Community Charity please contact Suzanne Rutter on 01709 426821 or via Charity@rothgen.nhs.uk.