The care and kindness shown to her dying grandmother changed Jacki Pigford’s life.
Eight years ago Christine Pigford from Delves Lane near Consett, who was only 58, was coming to the end of her battle with cancer when she spent a week at the Willow Burn Hospice in Lanchester.
Members of Christine’s family were so grateful for the support provided for her and them that they organised a charity night which raised £3,500.
Jacki, who was just 14 at the time of her grandmother’s death, said: “She was only there a short time, but the care provided by the staff was so fantastic. We’ve never forgotten.”
After school Jacki – who is now 23 and lives in Lanchester – studied Occupational Therapy at Teesside University. For work experience during her final year she asked Willow Burn whether she could become a volunteer in its day hospice. She was there every week for eight months.
“We’d had a lot of contact with Willow Burn before then,” she said. “We continued to get support from the staff, we have an Everlasting Leaf in memory of my grandmother and we take part in the Light up a Life service every Christmas.”
Towards the end of her work experience Jacki and her family decided to organise a second charity night to raise more money for the hospice. They collected £2,500.
Katherine Luke, Willow Burn’s income generation and marketing manager, said: “I was so impressed when I saw Jacki with patients around the hospice as well as the way she approached her fund-raising. Luckily I was looking for a community fund-raiser – and the rest is history.”
Jacki has been in the job for nearly a year and is already helping to plan Willow Burn’s first charity ball, in in partnership with The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, which takes place at the Beamish Hall Hotel on 16 September.
“It doesn’t seem like a job to me because I am so passionate about it,” she said. “I never thought I was going to do this, but now I can’t think of anything else I would want to do instead.”