Martyn Williams lost his football-fanatic dad, Lenny, to pancreatic cancer in 2015. Since his dad’s passing, Martyn has hosted a number of sporting-related events to raise money for Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice, which provided care and support to Lenny and his family in their own home.
From hosting charity football matches to touring some of London’s landmark stadiums, Martyn explains why his events help to honour his dad’s memory, as well support other local families just like his.
When the hospital told dad that there was nothing more they could do for his pancreatic cancer, it was an incredibly upsetting and difficult time for my family. He had just spent the last eight weeks in hospital and, on hearing this news, we all agreed that we just wanted dad to be back home.
That’s when the hospital referred us to the services of Birmingham St Mary’s. If truth be told, our family didn’t really know what to expect from the Hospice at first but we were told that clinical nurse specialist, Rose, would visit us in our home to explain.
Rose turned out to be absolutely fantastic. She supported all of us – my dad, mum, brother, sister and me – as a family and as individuals. Whilst her conversations were very informative, she always seemed to bring a good vibe with her whenever she came to visit us. She had a great knack for turning sad conversations into positive and enjoyable ones – and even brought out dad’s brilliant sense of humour at the darkest of times.
Rose would visit our family home once a week to give dad support with medicines, arrange physiotherapy and help with emotional support. She also pointed my parents in the right direction when it came to sorting out finances and filling in forms.
With Rose’s care and support, my dad was able to join in with big family events that were taking place that summer – something that we didn’t think would ever happen. My brother Alex was due to get married a month after my dad was discharged from the hospital and we were all unsure on whether he would be well enough to make it. However, not only did my dad make the wedding – where he gave an incredibly touching speech – but he also made it to the superhero-themed stag do, which was a fantastic surprise to all our family and friends. I’ll never forget the look on Alex’s face when my dad came to that stag do – it was a happy, family celebration and it meant so much to everyone to have him there and be a part of the fun.
During his illness, my dad showed a remarkable strength to keep on going. So, when he passed away, I knew that I wanted to do something which would honour that determination, as well as celebrate his life. As he was a massive football fan – and Birmingham City season ticket holder – I thought that a football-related event would be a great way to do this.
That’s why I now host an annual charity football match. The first event took place in 2015 and since then, they have gotten bigger and better every year. Over the past few years, I have been overwhelmed with the generosity of others, who have helped raise an incredible £4k for the Hospice. To name a few, I’ve had Starbucks, Tesco and my local gym giveaway some fantastic prizes, whilst the general public have been incredibly kind-hearted when it comes to taking part and donating money.
In addition to the football matches, I have also completed a sponsored walk with friends, in which I walked 15 miles to 15 different football stadiums in just 15 hours. All the football stadiums were in London and included Chelsea, Tottenham and Crystal Palace. It was tough – especially as a lot of tube stations were closed and so 15 miles quickly turned into 25 – but that feeling we got when we reached Wembley, our final stadium, made it all worthwhile.
For me, fundraising is a fantastic way of remembering dad and raising vital money for the Hospice. Whilst I wanted to raise funds for Birmingham St Mary’s to say thank you for the support they gave to me and my family, I also wanted to help others who are currently going through what we experienced two years ago. We know what a difficult time it can be, but by having that support and help from the Hospice, we were able to enjoy dad’s final months at home as a family.
Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice provides expert care and support to individuals and families living with terminal illness across Birmingham and Sandwell. It costs £8million per year to run the Hospice and so it relies on the generous support of local people to keep its services going. If you would like to find out how you can support the Hospice, take a look here.