Volunteers and veterans change lives at Godalming care home

7 July 2017

Maggie van Koetsveld, Neil Heslop, John Clapp and Darshan Baidoo cutting a cakeVolunteers and veterans were honoured by a leading charity for offering more than 40 years of support and raising thousands of pounds for disabled people.

Leonard Cheshire Disability paid tribute to the dedicated group of volunteers that make up Cranleigh Support group, many now in their 80s, who are now retiring from fundraising. 

The support group went out on a high after holding a final fundraiser for Leonard Cheshire Disability’s Hydon Hill care home in Godalming on 6 July, with a Bridge Tea event at Cranleigh School, attended by 100 people.

Ticket sales alone brought in £1,000, with more money raised on the day.

Leonard Cheshire Disability chief executive Neil Heslop led the tributes to the group at the event.

He presented them with a huge celebratory cake to mark their four decades of tireless work.

Head of the Cranleigh Support Group John Clapp, who turns 90 in August, has a long-term connection with the Leonard Cheshire Disability home in Godalming, having spent countless hours at Hydon Hill.

For a number of years he joined his late wife Avril in running the residents’ Sshop and organising many fundraising events in Cranleigh. 

John said:

‘My wife and I became totally involved in working for Hydon Hill. There have been great friendships built amongst our group of volunteers, and with the residents and staff.

‘I’ve learned a lot from the residents over the years and it’s been great fun. There’s a lot of laughter whenever I visit, which is always good.’

Asked to name his proudest moment fundraising for charity, John could have picked the 10 marathons, including two London marathons, which he ran for Leonard Cheshire Disability in the 1980s.

Instead, he chooses to celebrate the feats of others close to him.

‘My wife, Avril, was my soulmate. I shall never forget seeing so many people from Hydon Hill come together at her funeral.

‘Then when we reached our next fundraising goal, a brand new specialised bath for residents, a plaque was unveiled in her memory. It shows how enriched she felt by her service there.’

In his youth, during the second world war, John joined the Air Training Corps and is particularly keen to celebrate 100 years since the birth of war hero and global humanitarian Leonard Cheshire.

He said:

‘When we first formed the group in 1972, a number of us were World War Two veterans and knew all about Leonard Cheshire’s remarkable war efforts.

‘The years are catching up with us now but we wanted to make one last effort this year to mark his centenary.’ 

Group Captain Leonard Cheshire, who was a key member of the RAF’s famous Dambusters squadron, would have been 100 years old in September this year, but sadly passed away in 1992 after almost half a century of humanitarian work supporting disabled people around the world.

Continuing his legacy, the charity currently runs care services globally and also has specific projects to widen education and employment opportunities for disabled people.

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