Neil's Compassionate Journey with Pendleside Hospice

Neil with Head of Corporate Fundraising, Elaine Middleton

In 2016, Pendleside introduced the Corporate Challenge, a four-month initiative whereby local businesses are challenged to raise funds for the Hospice. 

Nearly 70 businesses took part in 2023, and collectively they raised over £167,000. The grand total was announced at an annual Awards Evening in November, an occasion that celebrates the accomplishments of everyone involved.

Neil, who works at PM+M Solutions for Business LLP, has taken part in the Corporate Challenge every year since it launched, and is a strong advocate for the Hospice.

Neil started the Corporate Challenge just months before his father, Colin, passed away. However, the Hospice had already gained significance in his life when his gran received care there six years earlier.

Colin spent his last days at Pendleside, and Neil sought bereavement support from the Family Support team after his father died.

Neil shared, “In 2016, my dad received a diagnosis of bowel cancer after previously undergoing surgery and treatment for prostate cancer. Despite chemotherapy, his condition continued to deteriorate, leading to multiple hospital admissions, with his final one occurring on Christmas Eve. 

Pendleside was the peaceful environment my father needed and by the 2nd January, my dad was transferred to the Hospice. Despite being told to prepare for his passing within 24-48 hours, my dad defied expectations and spent eight days at the Hospice. 

I was by his side, from early morning until late afternoon, when my mother and sister would take over. Just ten minutes after returning home one evening, I received a call from my mother informing me of his passing.”

Neil and his dad, Colin Welsh

In addition to grieving the loss of his dad, Neil was dealing with other challenges in both his work and personal life. From being fully focussed on attending appointments and being there for his parents, Neil suddenly found himself with more time. Neil added, “I lacked purpose and motivation. As a lifelong Burnley FC supporter, I had cherished memories of attending matches at Turf Moor with my dad, and although I now go with my son, the absence of my dad's presence weighed heavily on me.“

Dealing with bereavement, as well as other pressures, Neil was feeling lost. The doctor prescribed him with anti-depressants and in parallel, it was suggested that he seek counselling. Neil already had a connection to Pendleside and knew that the Hospice would be a good place to start.

"When I got in that room during my first counselling session with Jeanette, it was like sitting in a comfy chair - I felt completely at ease. One thing I struggled to comprehend was that my dad hadn't wanted a 'bucket list', that there weren't things he wanted to do in his final months. Jeanette helped me to understand that this wasn't uncommon, and that people often don't want to leave this world feeling like they haven't fulfilled their life.”

Ever since his counselling, Neil has continued to advocate for the Hospice where possible. "A colleague of mine, and employee at PM+M, Faye Holden, also died at Pendleside after being diagnosed with cancer in 2020.” Neil said, “So for me and the organisation, we want to continue supporting Pendleside the best we can.”

Neil participated in the Great North Run in 2022, adding, "It marked my inaugural half marathon and by that point, I'd become a keen runner. My dad was a geordie and visiting Newcastle is a core memory of mine, so crossing the Tyne Bridge was very special. When I got halfway across the bridge, tears streamed down my face. It was an unforgettable moment."

Neil and the team at PM+M have been involved in many fundraisers, including collecting donations for Pendleside's retail shops, selling car raffle tickets, and most recently, sponsoring a Christmas Tree at the Light Up a Life event in December. The tree sponsorship was made in Faye Holden's memory.

The Corporate Challenge launches again in May this year and is a fantastic opportunity for businesses to raise money, boost team morale and network with peers. 

"I highly recommend other businesses getting involved in the Challenge," Neil said, "There may come a time when you need Pendleside’s support. I also urge anyone looking for bereavement support to get in touch with the Hospice. There is often a stigma around counselling, but having a therapist is like having a coach; their aim is to provide you with the tools and techniques you need, to better your mental wellbeing. It's okay to not be okay." 

Pendleside's Family Support Team can be contacted on 01282 440 100.