They gave my friend the chance to die with dignity - why businessman champions hospice
When St Elizabeth Hospice announced their latest art trail - Elmer's Big Parade Suffolk - Graham Shemmings was one of the first sponsors to sign up.
His company, Homestyle UK, will have a plaque next to his chosen design when the trail launches next summer. But his support does not stop there. Graham saw first hand the ‘incredible care and support’ offered by the hospice during his elderly neighbour’s final days and ever since his support has been unwavering.
Graham is a stalwart supporter of the hospice, a man who goes above and beyond to raise funds; to support the hospice team and to sing their praises.
His efforts know no bounds. When the hospice needed a way of transporting the signature Elmer elephant around town it was Graham who stepped up and found them a truck. When they needed to find more businesses to support Elmer’s Big Parade Suffolk, it was Graham who joined them at the Suffolk Show and worked his sales patter on possible sponsors. And this week he is launching a colouring competition in a bid to build excitement around the project.
Here he explains, in his own words, why he will do everything he can to help the Ipswich-based hospice.
“A few years ago my elderly neighbour was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Unfortunately the only family he had was a son who lived in Holland and because of his circumstances he couldn’t get over to help his father.
“My wife took him under her wing and cleaned, did his washing and made sure he was fed properly.
“When his end of life was getting very close he was admitted to St Elizabeth Hospice and this is the very first contact I had with them.
“When I saw the care and support that was given, I realised how important it is to have a facility like this.
“The whole team at the hospice was incredible and the gentleman passed away with no pain, and with dignity.”
Mr Shemmings continued: “Soon after my wife decided to become a volunteer at the hospice as a ward assistant and after hearing the very sad stories on a regular basis it became more important to me to see how I could help.”
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By chance, Graham then had a meeting with the man who brought Pigs Gone Wild to Ipswich - Norman Lloyd.
“By magic, Norman appeared to explain the hospice was going to run the pig trail. I had no hesitation in signing up to sponsor a pig and in addition volunteered to be on Norman’s tea,
“As a company it was a great way of giving back to the local community which has supported us for nearly 20 years.”
For Graham, this was just the start of his support. He asked his staff to help him raise an additional £10,000 for St Elizabeth Hospice.
Golf days, family barbecues, bowling trips and parachute jumps ensued.
Graham even sourced some mini ceramic pigs which he sold for the hospice, giving children inspired by the art they had seen around Ipswich the chance to create their very own pig.
His team, like Graham, went the extra mile.
“All of our installers then volunteered to mount all of the pigs on the concrete bases and I personally helped on the delivery and collection of the pigs around the town centre,” said Graham.
Last Christmas Graham, sadly, saw once again how vital the hospice’s work is when a relative received care there.
“My mother in law was admitted to the hospice for her last few days after struggling with terminal cancer for two years.
“She received that special care that the hospice provides.”
Reaffirming his support for this valuable place, Graham signed up as one of the Early Bird Herd and has pledged to raise £3,500 on top of the sponsorship money - but he admits the figure is likely to be much higher as his team embrace the challenge once more.