THEN & NOW Hit­ting the heights to boost hospice

Sis­ter Cather­ine’s char­ity ad­ven­tures

Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser - - News - Judith Ton­ner

When rais­ing money for a good cause, many sup­port­ers may think of tra­di­tional meth­ods like spon­sored walks or bake sales – but the most fa­mous fundraiser for St An­drew’s Hospice prefers to take on chal­lenges on a big­ger scale.

The Ad­ver­tiser told in Septem­ber 2004 how Sis­ter Cather­ine Egan was plan­ning to help the Air­drie char­ity by climb­ing Ben Ne­vis, spend­ing a night on an oil rig and trekking to the lost Inca city of Machu Pic­chu, all in the space of just six weeks.

It was the lat­est in­stal­ment in an un­usual and im­pres­sive list of fundraising ven­tures by the “dare­devil nun”, then the hospice’s chief ex­ec­u­tive – which had also al­ready in­cluded a para­chute jump, a dou­ble paraglid­ing trip and a swim with sharks.

She re­called: “I have lovely mem­o­ries from all these chal­lenges; it was great to take on these new ad­ven­tures, and they raised aware­ness. Vis­it­ing the oil rig was great fun; there was a cheque to pick up and I thought it sounded re­ally in­ter­est­ing to go there.

“Climb­ing Ben Ne­vis was won­der­ful too, and Machu Pic­chu was a fant a s t i c ex­pe­ri­ence; the Peru­vian peo­ple were just amaz­ing.

“I can re­mem­ber set­ting out one day when we were all pre­pared for a day of hard graft and walk­ing; we passed a lit­tle girl tak­ing sheep up the hill, strolling through with ease in her san­dals!

“The best thing about all of them has been meet­ing the lovely peo­ple who take part, give up hol­i­day time and raise funds, of­ten be­cause they’ve known some­body who was in the hospice’s care. It’s so touch­ing and they’re just won­der­ful.”

Sis­ter Cather­ine was al­ready an ad­ven­ture vet­eran when she took on the 2004 triple chal­lenge, hav­ing raised thou­sands by adding the fundraising chal­lenges to her role as ma­tron, which she held from 1989 un­til 2005.

Now the Air­drie hospice’s di­rec­tor of mis­sion since 2010, she said: “The very first thing came when our fundrais­ers were try­ing to think of some­thing dif­fer­ent to do and men­tioned a para­chute jump. I said it would be some­thing I’d have loved to do if I was younger, but from there it grew arms and legs!

“Next year will be the 25th an­niver­sary of that tan­dem para­chute jump. I went to Strathal­lan to do it, and it was quite an ex­pe­ri­ence.

“You sit on the floor of the plane and are asked to shuf­fle for­ward – and then there’s no go­ing back! The first 5000 feet is freefall and it’s the ex­cep­tional bit.

“I can re­mem­ber try­ing to take in air and I can still hear the sound in my ears; and then once the para­chute opened, the fol­low­ing mo­ments were very pleas­ant and very gen­tle as we came down.”

Sis­ter Cather­ine’s in­cred­i­ble cat­a­logue of fundrais­ers over nearly three decades with the hospice also in­cludes hav­ing twice paraglided over Tinto Hill, braved the sharks at Deep Sea World, ab­seiled, com­pleted the West High­land Way and even trekked the Great Wall of China.

She added: “We de­pend on the public and lo­cal peo­ple to raise funds; in the early days the work and name of the hospice weren’t as well known as to­day and all the events like this have helped raise aware­ness.

“Go­ing to China and Spain on fundrais­ers were ex­cel­lent ex­pe­ri­ences, es­pe­cially meet­ing the whole host of lovely peo­ple who give their time and sup­port to the hospice.

“It’s been great for me to take on these ven­tures and to see all these peo­ple over the years do­ing tremen­dous work for St An­drew’s, and how that re­sponse has grown as peo­ple want to keep the ser­vice go­ing which is so im­por­tant for fam­i­lies.”

A Sis­ters of Char­ity nun, Sis­ter Cather­ine ar­rived at St An­drew’s in 1989 hav­ing pre­vi­ously nursed in Lon­don, at a time when the Air­drie hospice had 20 el­derly care beds and six for the pal­lia­tive pa­tients it now serves.

She said: “The hospice changed over time, to al­low us now to have 30 spe­cial­ist pal­lia­tive care beds serv­ing the peo­ple of La­nark­shire. It’s been won­der­ful to see the hospice grow and de­velop, to pro­vide care not just to pa­tients but to their ex­tended fam­i­lies as well.

“My work is to sup­port pa­tients on a daily ba­sis, at times to pro­vide a lis­ten­ing ear to al­low peo­ple to ex­press and talk about fears and anx­i­eties.

“It’s just such a priv­i­lege to be in this role and have the op­por­tu­nity ev­ery day to give that care. The courage peo­ple dis­play is a great ex­am­ple to us all; I come away feel­ing how amaz­ing these lovely peo­ple are.

“Lots of fam­i­lies come back to sup­port us or raise money and it’s so touch­ing to see, that they’ve felt that sup­port at very dif­fi­cult times in their lives and are so gen­er­ous to us.”

St An­drew’s Hospice had been founded just three years be­fore Sis­ter Cather­ine’s arrival; it last year marked its 30th an­niver­sary and is cur­rently be­ing com­pletely re­built and re­fur­bished – via a £ 9 mil­lion cap­i­tal ap­peal – to up­grade it to be fully fit for the 21st cen­tury.

Pa­tients are cur­rently be­ing cared for at a tem­po­rary fa­cil­ity at Wester Mof­fat hospi­tal in the town, with the ren­o­va­tion project an­tic­i­pated to be com­pleted early next year.

Sis­ter Cather­ine said: “The hospice’s level of care is sec­ond to none, and the new re­fur­bish­ment will made a huge difference.

“It will be lovely to be able to ac­com­mo­date fam­i­lies, which will be a real as­set to them at a cru­cial time in their lives with their loved ones.

“Such tremen­dous work is be­ing done and it’s great to see it pro­gress­ing and to ac­knowl­edge all the hard work that’s go­ing on. By far, peo­ple are our great­est re­source and with­out their gen­eros­ity we just couldn’t man­age.

“The hospice has evolved thanks to the sup­port of those in­clud­ing the board of trustees, who give their time, en­ergy and ex­per­tise, our ac­com­mo­dat­ing staff, tire­less fundraising and our great band of vol­un­teers – St An­drew’s just couldn’t pro­vide that ser­vice with­out all their hard work.

“All our staff over the years have worked very hard from those early days – it’s amaz­ing to see how the hospice has grown and how many lives it’s touched, and we have to ac­knowl­edge those who had that orig­i­nal dream 30 years ago.”

The best thing about all of them has been meet­ing the lovely peo­ple who take part.. they’re just won­der­ful

Safe land­ing Sis­ter Cather­ine be­gan her ad­ven­tures with a para­chute jump nearly 25 years ago and went on to try out paraglid­ing over Tinto Hill in 1996

Hospice sup­porter Sis­ter Cather­ine Egan, left, is now di­rec­tor of mis­sion at the char­ity for which she has raised thou­sands of pounds over the years

Pre­vi­ous chal­lenges How the Ad­ver­tiser of Septem­ber 2004 re­ported Sis­ter Cather­ine’s newly-planned ad­ven­tures

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