This month the Wigan Observer has launched the Helping Hand campaign urging readers to give Wigan and Leigh Hospice a Helping Hand to raise the £10,000 required to see it through the extra day in this leap year.
This week we highlight the incredible effect the hospice’s work has on patients suffering life-limiting illnesses and their families.
Other news: Homelessness charity opens new store in borough
Holly Moreland took part in a hospice event after signing up for the fund-raiser just hours after her grandad’s death.
Holly, from Atherton, decided to enter the Strictly.... event the Hindley-based charity runs each year when she was at the hospice’s Kildare Street headquarters.
Her grandad Joseph Gillespie was cared for on the in-patient unit while battling bladder cancer and died there in May last year.
Just a few hours later Holly was having a hot drink in the hospice’s cafe when she noticed a poster advertising the fund-raiser.
It felt like a perfect moment as her grandad had also enjoyed showing off his steps on the dancefloor during his life.
She was also moved to take part to help the hospice after seeing first hand what the charity did during the four weeks he was cared for on the in-patient unit from April to May this year.
Holly, 34, said: “Grandad passed away at 5.15am and by 10am I’d signed up for Strictly.
“It was really fitting because grandad was a ballroom dancer and since the competition I’ve carried on with dancing with my husband Ian which I know would have made grandad happy.
“It puts everything into perspective when your family need help. I wanted to fundraise by taking part in Strictly because someone out there raised money to help families like mine so I wanted to do the same for other families.
“I know the hospice is a charity and needs our support and I just can’t imagine it ever not being there.
“Grandad wanted to be pain-free, to be outside and in the garden and that is where the hospice came in – he wouldn’t have got that anywhere else.
“The hospice gave him some of his final wishes because by being there we could wheel him out in his bed to feel the sun on his face and be in a garden.
“The garden was the selling point of the hospice for us. Grandad chatted to the gardener and passed on some of the things he’d learnt over the years and we organised an Easter Egg Hunt for his great-grandchildren in the garden.
“We have photos of them there and of his room which we decorated with Easter decorations – we made memories while we were there which we otherwise wouldn’t have had.
“He kept saying he wanted to go home and sleep in his own bed so for us there was some guilt because we couldn’t make that happen but the hospice let us bring in his own blanket and pillow and have his dog on the bed with him.
“We went through a really difficult time and we were probably quite demanding as a family because he was in pain but through it all the nursing team and volunteers were so lovely to him and that is something that we’ll never be able to repay them for.
“They gave us so much time with him, let us have what we needed and talked us through what was happening, all of which made it so much easier for us.
“On the day of his death we went and sat outside his bedroom and it was so peaceful – all you could hear were the birds – and the nurses brought us each a lock of his hair.
“One of the nurses took a handprint which we hadn’t asked for but it was such a lovely gesture and these are the things that made it bearable.”
Mr Gillespie died aged 89 and was buried with his Royal Artillery cap and badge.
Remarkably he had still been working as a window cleaner at the age of 82 but was forced to stop after his first diagnosis with bladder cancer and suffering a heart attack.
He was clear for several years but was re-diagnosed with the disease in early March and headed into hospital to have the tumour removed towards the end of that month.
However, his family was stunned to be told that, contrary to their expectation that he would be home within 24 hours, his condition was incurable.
He spent several weeks in hospital and was then transferred to the hospice.
Holly said: “It was meant to be a straightforward operation and we were planning on going on a cruise but then we found out his cancer had spread and that he was terminal.
“Grandad was a real character, quite loud and bubbly, and gardening-mad. Until the day he was admitted into hospital he was still driving, doing his own shopping and going for veterans’ lunches, so his diagnosis hit us like a tonne of bricks.”
Holly, who is a training officer for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), performed in the Strictly... event at the DW Stadium in front of a packed audience and did a waltz.
The dance event is a major fund-raiser for the hospice, with willing volunteers teaming up with expert dancers to learn a routine from scratch.