‘It’s going to be tough’: Hospice boss to join friends in John O’Groats to Land’s End fundraising walk

Mike Palfreman, Paul Turrell and Simon Fanning ahead of the fundraising walk. Picture courtesy of Ha

Mike Palfreman, Paul Turrell and Simon Fanning ahead of the fundraising walk. Picture courtesy of Haven House Children's Hospice - Credit: Haven House Children's Hospice

A hospice chief executive is taking part in a walk from John O’Groats to Land’s End in a bid to raise a six-figure sum for the charity.

Mike Palfreman heads up Haven House Children’s Hospice, in Woodford Green, which takes care of youngsters with life-limiting illnesses.

He is joining two friends, Paul Turrell and Simon Fanning, along the way as they aim to complete the 900-mile trek.

A lifelong Hornchurch resident, Mike has taken on numerous walking challenges with Paul in recent years but admitted this is the toughest task yet.

He said: ”We thought what next is an even bigger challenge than we’ve done before? Up popped the idea of John O’Groats to Land’s End.

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“It’s a big one and, make no bones about it, it’s going to be tough as it’s 900 miles and although we will have a rest day every week or so, it’s pretty much 30 miles a day for 30 days.

“Hopefully it catches the imagination and encourages people to put their hand in their pocket.”

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The Covid-19 pandemic led to the charity’s planned fundraisers having to be cancelled, with Mike adding that the charity expected to lose around £500,000 between April and June.

The fundraising walk is hoping to raise £100,000, which the charity’s boss felt will be a significant milestone if they reach it.

“It’s a very critical event for us and clearly the more fundraising we can get from it, the better,” he said.

The challenge will begin on August 29 and they will be joined at various points along the route by at least 40 other people.

The journey follows in the footsteps of cricket legend Sir Ian Botham, who completed the John O’Groats to Land’s End challenge twice among numerous charity fundraising walks over the years.

Sir Ian, who was knighted for his services to charity and cricket, gave a special good luck message.

He said: “It is great to hear that you are taking on this challenge and take it from me it will certainly test you.

“Just make sure you get your sums right though. The first time I did it I thought we were nearing the end and then we hit the Scottish border.

“Give it everything and remember you can always take another step.”

Despite the fundraising setbacks, the pandemic has also seen positives for the charity, with Mike declaring that it has been busier than normal from a care perspective.

Haven House offered to take patients without Covid-19 from hospitals, such as Great Ormond Street, in a bid to lessen the load.

Mike said: “In the early stages, we were getting a lot of step-down children from out of hospital - some more complex than we might normally see at a children’s hospice - but that was great becuase we could take them out of hospital into a safe, infection-free environment and free up hospital beds. So that worked extremely well.”

Mike is in his tenth year as chief executive of Haven House, after he had a similar role at Age Concern Havering (now Tapestry).

Labelling the Haven House role as the “best job I’ve ever had”, he said: “It can go from very sad days to incredibly joyful days but I think that range of emotions is part of what makes it such a satisfying job.

“Just to be able to see the difference you are making to sick children and their wider families right the way across north-east London is incredibly satisfying.”

In a final message urging people to donate to the fundraiser, Mike added: “The current crisis is making the future very uncertain for the hospice, so every pound we raise from the walk will be critical to ensure we can keep making the massive difference we do to the lives of sick children and their families across north-east London.

“I’m calling on people to dig deep to support our challenge and to ensure Haven House can continue to be there for children and families long into the future.”

To donate, go to havenhouse.org.uk/fundraisers/john-ogroats-to-lands-end-walk.

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