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Saturday, 20 September 2014

Thousands raised in honour of beloved daughter Clare

IT is impossible to negotiate the first Christmas after the death of a loved one without the occasion stirring up some particularly powerful memories.

The holiday season is synonymous with family and the absence of a member amplifies grief that is never far from the surface.

Barrow couple Paul and Lorraine Sturgeon faced their first Christmas without beloved daughter Clare Hutchinson, who passed away from cancer in May.

But they can take some comfort in the knowledge that their fundraising efforts since her passing will help keep other families together in difficult times.

Ms Hutchinson – a mother to Jamie, 20, and grandmother to Millie-Mae, 18 months – was just 41 when she lost her 13-year battle with first bowel cancer, then a brain tumour and finally leukaemia.

It was during treatment for the third of these illnesses that Mr and Mrs Sturgeon stayed at Duncan House in Blackpool where they could be close to their daughter.

Duncan House was opened by Barrow woman Liz Cassells to give Cumbrian families a place to stay while their relatives undergo treatment for leukaemia in Blackpool.

So grateful for the service are Mr and Mrs Sturgeon that they have since raised more than £13,500 to help keep the house’s doors open.

“Leukaemia treatment is very long-term and Clare only completed three of the four treatments and she was in for more than six months,” he said.

“The first few weeks we travelled everyday from Barrow, but we found the strain of it was unbelievable because it’s 80 miles each-way.

“The offer of Duncan House for us to stay in rent-free was just piece-of-mind and it meant we were able to be close to Clare and not worrying about the travelling.

“On three occasions we got calls from the hospital in the early hours of the morning that Clare was quite poorly and to come to the hospital and we couldn’t have done that from Barrow.”

While £1,500 was donated to Duncan House from a collection at Ms Hutchinson’s funeral, a further £12,000 came in from a fundraising night at The Nines in Barrow in October.

“It was beyond our wildest dreams,” Mr Sturgeon, 62, of Kirkstone Crescent, said. “We’d never done anything on that scale before and you see in the paper a quiz night or a do at a pub raises £800 to £1,000 and you think that’s good.

“I sort of had in the back of my mind that because the tickets sold out quickly we might be able to get £3,000 to £4,000, but to raise £12,000 was just unbelievable.”

That night, which even earned the endorsement of Liverpool captain Steve Gerrard, continues to raise money for Duncan House, with a local legacy fund in the process of finalising a donation.

And Mr and Mrs Sturgeon are hopeful there will be more fundraisers next year, including a fashion show around Easter that is in the early planning stages.

“It’s kept us occupied and kept our minds focused that some good has come out of our loss that will help other people who are in the same situation,” he said.

“Duncan House’s future is certainly not guaranteed. It’s on a short-term lease from the hospital over a few years, so it has to be successful for that lease to be renewed.

“It’s roughly £10,000 a year to keep it open, so there’s a lot of satisfaction that we’ve helped keep the doors open for another 12 months.”

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