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Walking 7 miles at sunrise in memory of my boys

Friday 24 July 2020

Worthing resident, Julie Ackroyd, has signed up to take part in Sunrise to Remember: Virtual Edition to raise funds for St Barnabas House – the hospice who cared for her teenage son, Luke, at the end of his life and supported her emotionally after the sudden loss of her husband.

Taking place on 12 September 2020 ‘Sunrise to Remember: Virtual Edition’ is replacing the hospice’s biggest annual fundraising event ‘Night to Remember’ and will see hundreds of local residents setting off from their own homes at sunrise on a seven-mile walk in memory of their loved ones.

Sunrise to Remember will be an emotional as well as physical challenge for Julie, as not only is she walking in memory of her son and husband, but last year she was also diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis – a condition which affects the body’s central nervous system.

“The diagnosis of MS has been a very challenging one,” says Julie. “This time last year I needed two sticks to walk and I didn’t have the confidence to go out alone as I was very unsteady on my feet. But, with the same determination I learned from my son, Luke, I was not going to be beaten by it and I am now walking five miles once a week.”

Luke Rumsey and Julie AckroydJulie’s son, Luke Rumsey, was born at 31 weeks gestation and suffered a brain haemorrhage which resulted in cerebral palsy and a rare genetic condition that caused the middle section of his brain to only partly form.

“This resulted in many disabilities for Luke and he always required the same level of care as a new-born baby,” says Julie. “However, despite his many disabilities, Luke loved life and was determined to do what he could and was well known for his smile. I always knew Luke wouldn’t make old age, but I didn’t expect it to be so soon after his 19th birthday.”

When Luke’s health dramatically deteriorated in 2008, aged 19, he spent the final three weeks of his life being cared for at St Barnabas House. At this point, Julie was exhausted from caring for Luke at home and says that “admitting him to St Barnabas turned out to be the best decision I ever made.”

“I stayed with him at the hospice and the nurses and doctors helped me to provide round the clock care for him. When Luke was coming to the very end of his short and precious life, they took over his care and I became Luke’s ‘mum’ again. This was the greatest gift anyone could have given me – it’s not the right way round to lose your child.

“Luke finally lost his brave battle on the 20 August 2008 when he passed peacefully in my arms. Just me and him, the way it should have been. Everyone said we were a formidable team.”

In 2018, life dealt Julie another cruel blow when her husband, Ray, passed away very suddenly.

“When I lost my husband very unexpectedly, St Barnabas House were there yet again to help me pick up the pieces and rebuild my yet again shattered life with their bereavement groups counselling services,” says Julie.

“They helped me to realise all the feelings I had of anger, grief and hurt were all part of the process of coming to terms with the loss of another loved one. I was surrounded by people in the same situation and talking helped me to realise these were natural feelings of grief and it was ok not to be ok. I can honestly say I wouldn’t be where I am today without St Barnabas.”

Julie has this message for anyone who might be thinking about taking part in Sunrise to Remember and raising money for St Barnabas House:

“If I can do it, so can you. Put your trainers on and get out there and train. This charity, which is so close to my heart, needs every penny we can possibly raise for them, especially after the effects of COVID-19 which has drastically reduced their income. You just never know when you or your loved ones might need the help of St Barnabas House.”

Sunrise to Remember takes place on 12 September 2020 and is open to everyone. Registration is £12 per person, free for children under 16. For more information and to sign up visit www.stbh.org.uk/nighttoremember