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Mum Rebecca Gaskell and daughter Imogen will be raising money for Helen & Douglas House on a Sahara Trek on Mother’s Day this year, in memory of her other daughter Grace who was cared for by Helen & Douglas House. Rebecca has already raised £1,200 for Helen & Douglas House and is also taking part in a Skydive on Grace’s 18th birthday on 12th April.

Rebecca and Imogen will be taking part in the Sahara Trek from 9-16th March walking 60km for two full days trekking across ancient dried up river beds, sand dunes and vast sun-baked plains. They will be camping each day in the Sahara and will then travel back to Marrakech and spend two days helping a community project which supports vulnerable young people with education and vocational training.

Grace’s Story

Grace was diagnosed aged 12 with a brain tumour and just before her 14th birthday they received the news that her tumour was no longer stable or treatable and she needed hospice care.

Rebecca said: “The thought of going to hospice filled me with utter dread. Grace has several stays at Helen & Douglas House and always enjoyed being there, often asking if she could stay longer.

“Our last visit came in November of 2020, the day Grace passed away. We were given the blessed opportunity to stay with Grace for five further days after her passing. Grace was cared for with the up most dignity and love by all the staff. They looked after my whole family, they cried with us, grieved with us, fed us and held our hands through the hardest time of our lives. Grace was a very loving and funny girl, a natural comedian who loved to make people laugh with funny dances and songs. She was incredibly caring and always put others first despite her cancer.”

“Helen & Douglas House are the most caring group of people you could care to meet.

“Grace loved to stay at the hospice and especially loved the big bath and playing Uno with the nurses. The hospice allowed us to be together in a safe environment and know we could relax in the knowledge that Grace was being cared for and we could take a break.

“Caring for a child with brain cancer is incredibly full on and to be able to take a few moments out for a cup of tea is so important. After Grace passed away, we were also able to stay at Helen & Douglas House for 5 extra days to be with Grace. I can’t put into words how precious this time was for all of us. The staff literally swept us and our grief up and cared for us with patience and love. We will never forget their care at such a painful time.

Pictures of Graces family. On the left, a picture of Rebecca and Imogen. On the right, a black and white photo of Imogen and Grace

A meaningful trek

After such a difficult time, Rebecca and Imogen want to give back to the place that supported their family.

“Now we want to give back…so now it’s our turn. We will walk 60km through the Sahara desert through the heat and sandstorms to raise much needed funds for Helen & Douglas House.

“We have both been doing treadmill training in preparation with weighted rucksack and also weight-lifting for leg and back strength. I also teach cardio classes at the gym so I’ve been doing plenty of them.

“Spending Mother’s Day in the Sahara with Imogen and walking in Grace’s memory will be very poignant. I will be wearing Grace’s RAF Cadet boots and carrying her camp rucksack. She will literally be with us every step of the way. I know Grace would be very proud of us both for doing this in her memory.”

The trek will give mum and daughter a challenge to get stuck into and time to reflect on the life of Grace; her bravery and her determination to never give up. Grace taught her mum and sister to be brave and strong in advercity. Rebecca and Imogen also want to give something back to the “wonderful members of staff at the hospice.” “Without their love and care looking after Grace would have been very different. They were always on hand to call and often visited during COVID when we felt so isolated from the world. We owe it to them to do this challenge and raise as much as we can for such a special place.

“I’m looking forward to looking at the night sky, over the Sahara seeing all the stars and knowing Grace is watching over us. I am looking forward to taking on the challenge and feeling proud of what we are achieving. I am slightly concerned about lizards and snakes, not my favourites.

Julia Woodcock from Helen & Douglas House said “We would like to say a massive thank you to Rebecca and Imogen for taking on this Sahara Trek to raise money for us. They have already raised an amazing amount of money for us which we are so grateful for. Without wonderful people like Rebecca and her family, we wouldn’t be here to provide the care and support we were able to give their family through the most difficult of times.”