My blog this week takes the form of an appeal for sponsorship which I have out to many of my friends. If you have already responded to this appeal, then thank-you; but if not, I would love your support. So far (including Gift Aid Donations) I have received just over £1,575. My target is £5,000 – and ideally I need the money by the weekend of Saturday 12/Sunday 13 (although money received later, would always be acceptable!)
Early Sunday morning 13 January 2002 I was called to the bedside of 18 year old Jonathan David Whiffin. Jonathan was dying in a general ward, surrounded by a group of old men, a number of whom were groaning and shouting out. By the time I returned from my morning service, he was dead. His funeral took place on 22 January. I remember that we sang one of Jonathan’s favourite songs ‘Jubilate Everyone’. The funeral was a celebration of Jonathan’s life. True there was grief – at any time to lose a loved one is hard, still more an 18 year old son. But there was hope too. For although the tributes celebrated Jonathan’s past, we could also celebrate Jonathan’s present and the future – for Jonathan was a believer – and where there is faith there is hope.
I had known Jonathan for almost ten years. He was a fun-loving sociable teenager, who came to our church with his parents and brothers. At the age of three he was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a fatal genetic disorder. His death was therefore not unexpected – indeed we were surprised that Jonathan had survived as long as he did. However, the circumstances of his death were not the happiest. What made things difficult was that there was no appropriate care for Jonathan – either as he was dying or when he died. He was really too old for a children’s hospice – and too young for a ‘normal’ hospice. What was needed was a hospice for young adults.
As a result of his mother’s passion for appropriate care for young adults with life-limiting diseases, the J’s Hospice was founded with the vision to see enhanced care and support for young adults across Essex with life limiting conditions such as cancer and a wide range of complex neurological and metabolic conditions. The J’s provides tailored nursing, respite and end of life care, advice and advocacy, emotional care, bereavement support and a range of activities for the young adult and their family in the comfort and security of their own home. The aim of the J’s is to help young adults to live their life to the full, however short. For more information, see the website: www.thejshospice.org.uk. It is an amazing organisation. It is also an amazingly expensive operation to maintain: this year the J’s needs to raise £840,000.
Since its inception I have been a patron of the J’s Hospice. I confess that for the most part my support has been somewhat limited. However, this autumn I want to make a difference and raise a substantial sum of money for the J’s. To this end I have agreed to have my hair dyed brilliant blue on Saturday 12 October, on the understanding that my friends will sponsor me.
Karen Bridge the chief colourist at the Chelmsford Branch of Toni & Guy will be in charge of operations. The deed will take place in the Toni and Guy Salon in the High Street. Fortunately I won’t have to have my hair bleached before hand – it does help that it is 70% white. However, Karen tells me that having my hair dyed bright blue, even although it will not be a permanent dye, means that when I want the colour of my hair to go back to normal, it may actually turn green!
My church leaders have agreed to me preaching and leading communion on the following day, while I am due to make a presentation at Baptist House Didcot on the Monday morning, and then speak at an Alpha introductory supper in the evening.
Over the years my church has been very generous to the J’s Hospice. So it is a little difficult for me to make a big appeal for more money from the church. Although on Sunday 12 October there will be an opportunity for members of the congregation to give, I am principally asking friends outside the church– and indeed people in genera – to ‘sponsor’ me. True, there is very little effort involved – I will not, for instance, be running the marathon for the J’s. But I would suggest that by dying my hair I will be engaging in some form of ritual humiliation – indeed, for some people this act will be confirmation of madness they have always suspected.
So will you support me? £5 to 15 to £50 £150 or even £500? Although cash and cheques are welcome, there will be a page on Virgin Money Giving where people can give by debit or credit card. I have never done anything like this before – and am unlikely to do so in the future. So do please be generous!
You can give online here.