Lepper family celebrate decades of supporting Pilgrims Hospices

Suzanne Lepper and her family from Ashford have been supporting Pilgrims Hospices since the charity’s earliest days. They began by holding supper parties at their house, which friends paid to attend; this helped to fund the Canterbury hospice, Pilgrims’ first site.

They now support the charity in many capacities, including at events and within the east Kent community. Their commitment and dedication enable Pilgrims to continue providing vital end-of-life care to local people.

Suzanne with an Ashford Snowdog

Suzanne, a retired NHS nurse, became involved with Pilgrims through her best friend, Suzanne Martin – the daughter of Ann Robertson, Pilgrims’ founder and lifetime president.

Suzanne said: “There was no local hospice at the time, so patients with terminal illnesses were cared for in hospital, which wasn’t ideal. When Suzanne told me about her mother’s vision, we really wanted to make it happen and put it at the top of our wish list.”

The Lepper’s supper parties proved so popular that they also started hosting BBQs with live music; these were attended by hundreds of guests, and raised substantial amounts of money for Pilgrims.

Suzanne is now a Hospice Ambassador, which involves collecting fundraising cheques from pubs, clubs, coffee mornings, sky dives and many more community events.

Her husband, Peter, is a Pilgrims Trustee, and the whole family – including their daughters, Victoria and Rachel and son-in-laws, Chris and Noel – take on various volunteering roles, too.

A fundraising gathering at the Lepper’s house


Suzanne added: “We sell raffle tickets at the summer and Christmas fairs and marshal at the Cycle Challenge, Pilgrims Way Challenge and Santas on the Run! events. Peter and Victoria are often back-walkers, collecting signs and checking that participants are safe on the routes, and in addition Victoria is a reception volunteer at the Ashford hospice. We also supply and crew two vans for Tree Recycling collections in the Ashford area.

“We already have the next generation coming on board; our three-year-old grandson, Oliver, likes nothing better than a visit to the Ashford fundraising office to see the team!”

Lou Newman, Community Fundraising Manager, said: “A huge thank you to the amazing Lepper family for all their fantastic support over the years. They are a real inspiration to us all!”

The family have experience of Pilgrims’ care through loved ones and friends, so they have seen first-hand the difference that fundraising and volunteering makes to the local community.

Suzanne added: “My mother-in-law received the most wonderful end-of-life care in 2002; our family were treated with great compassion and nothing was ever a problem. In 2003, Peter and I sadly lost one of our closest friends, Steve, after a 10-month battle against cancer. The night before he died, we were there with his wife and another friend having a beer and a laugh. Pilgrims’ staff made us so welcome, gave Steve a gin and tonic, and helped to make our last memory of him a lovely one. Over the years, I’ve visited friends and patients many times, and have never failed to be impressed by the level of care given to everyone, not just the patient.

“As a volunteer, I really enjoy seeing the lengths people go to to raise money for Pilgrims. Our family love the challenge of selling out of raffle tickets and earning more than the last time! It’s wonderful to be able to support a charity that is so needed by local people at all stages in their diagnosis.

“To anyone thinking of volunteering for Pilgrims, I’d say: Do it! The satisfaction it brings cannot be underestimated, and you can give a little time or a lot – Pilgrims is grateful for whatever you’re able to offer.”

Inspired to become a Pilgrims’ volunteer?

Visit pilgrimshospices.org/volunteer and look out for more stories and information throughout Volunteers’ Week!

Volunteers’ Week celebrates the amazing contributions volunteers make to communities across the UK. The celebration starts on the first Monday in June every year. It’s a chance to recognise, celebrate and thank the UK’s incredible volunteers for all they contribute to our local communities, the voluntary sector, and society as a whole.

Each year, Pilgrims Hospices give care and comfort to thousands of people in east Kent who are coming to terms with an illness that sadly cannot be cured. The charity support patients to live life as well as possible until the very end, free from pain and distress.