Cliff Gerlach (67) from Capel-le-Ferne will take on a Firewalk for Pilgrims Hospices on Saturday 2 March. He is choosing to brave the ‘hottest, shortest sponsored walk in the world’ in memory of his wife, Linda, who received care from the charity last year. The event will be held in the grounds of the Ashford hospice, where Linda and her family were supported during her illness.
Cliff and Linda were together for more than 20 years and married in the chapel at Pilgrims Hospice Ashford on 28 September 2018, just a few days before Linda passed away aged 67. Reflecting on the care Linda received while at Pilgrims, Cliff said: “It was just brilliant. Pilgrims’ support was invaluable to Linda and our family. The nurses told Linda that anything she wanted, she could have – she even enjoyed a glass of wine one night.”
Linda’s daughter, Angela Carolan (47) from Folkestone, added: “Nothing was too much trouble. Our family were free to come and go with no restrictions; we stayed over at the hospice some nights. On the day of the wedding they even helped us with little things like parking.”
I’m doing it for Linda, but I hope that my fundraising will help other families who are experiencing Pilgrims’ care to keep going. I want everyone who needs it to be able to experience the hospice’s kind and compassionate service.
Cliff has already raised more than £1,000 for his Firewalk, with 82 people sponsoring him so far and one donation arriving from as far afield as the United States, where his niece lives. On the night, family and friends will cheer Cliff on as he prepares for his dash across the flames. He said: “I wanted to do something to say thank you and the Firewalk was the first thing I saw; it came up on Facebook and I thought, yeah, I could do that.
“As a family we just want to do our best to support Pilgrims. I’m doing it for Linda, but I hope that my fundraising will help other families who are experiencing Pilgrims’ care to keep going. I want everyone who needs it to be able to experience the hospice’s kind and compassionate service.
Supporting Pilgrims has given me meaning and purpose. Asking people to put their name on my sponsorship form, knowing that this will help others who have life limiting illnesses, helps me get up in the morning and go on with life no matter how hard it seems.
“When you lose somebody close you feel despair and grief, like you just want to give up, but supporting Pilgrims has given me meaning and purpose. Asking people to put their name on my sponsorship form, knowing that this will help others who have life limiting illnesses, helps me get up in the morning and go on with life no matter how hard it seems.”
Cliff is keen to keep giving back to Pilgrims and hopes to become a volunteer for the charity in the future. He’s also downloaded Pilgrims’ new event app and plans to sign himself and his dog up for Paws 4 Pilgrims, a fun 5k dog walk along the Deal coastline taking place on Sunday 24 March. He added: “The Pilgrims’ staff aren’t just there for end-of-life care but also to help people through all the difficult times when losing a loved one. I personally thank them for what they do, and I’ll be doing all I can to support Pilgrims in the future.”
Robert Grew, Events Fundraiser at Pilgrims Hospices, said: “It’s great watching people like Cliff conquer their fear and brave the barefoot walk across the coals. I’m always astonished by the lengths people in our community will go to raise money for our end-of-life care services, and crossing red-hot wood embers that measure 800 degrees is no exception! I’d like to wish Cliff and all our firewalkers the best of luck for their challenge and thank them for putting their best foot forward for hospice care. I’ll be cheering you all the way.”
Feeling inspired to follow in Cliff’s footsteps and face the flames?
There is still time to enter the Firewalk in Canterbury on Friday 1 March 2019 or Ashford on Saturday 2 March 2019.
Visit pilgrimshospices.org/firewalk or call 01227 812 609 to sign up now, but hurry, advance entry closes this Sunday 24 February 2019. Entry includes training seminar, firewalking experience and certificate.