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22 April 2021

Oakwrights Corporate Charity Partners: Bill Keir's story

Oakwrights Corporate Charity Partners: Bill Keir’s story

My story might read like a nightmare but, when asked, I will always describe myself as lucky. Lucky for many reasons, not least the fact that my family was introduced to St Michael’s Hospice.

I’m a Director at Herefordshire-based Oakwrights. Soon after joining as General Manager in 2003, my wife Sarah fell ill with breast cancer, which required immediate surgery. What followed was chemotherapy, a subsequent loss of hair and a lot of research and book-buying.

Sarah, a wonderful mother to our two daughters, Libby and Katherine, remained strong, determined to beat her cancer. But post-mastectomy complications led to a hospital admission during a trip to our ‘happy place’ in Cornwall.

It was while there again in 2008 – five years after her original diagnosis – that a Community nurse suggested Sarah go into a Hospice for some intravenous drips, and for me to get some respite. That was our first experience of St Michael’s. The care we experienced was delivered with compassion and understanding. It could not have been better.

Sarah, in her usual way, fought what was before her. She died in my arms on the 4th October 2008. I said goodbye, phoned home for a lift and then told our girls.

The love and support provided by St Michael’s didn’t end there though. Being the only parent to two daughters, aged 10 and 14, was daunting. We were assigned a lovely lady called Gail Calthrop, who had been caring for Sarah when she was at St Michael’s. The girls and I joined other bereaved children and parents, received home support, and Libby and Katherine benefitted from Saturday Club which is put on for youngsters going through bereavement.

One day, I decided that for the next five years, I would donate or try to raise enough to pay for a two-week stay at St Michael’s. The second year, my colleagues at Oakwrights decided to hold a bicycle ride from our headquarters in Swainshill to Avoncroft, near Bromsgrove. Libby and Katherine even took part on borrowed bikes, alongside me.

Over the years, we at Oakwrights have lost a few people to cancer. They all received excellent care from St Michael’s. This is why we decided to form a strong bond with the Hospice and make them our corporate charity partners. We have never looked back. This support comes in a number of ways, either physically helping out, as we do at the annual Hellens Garden Festival, or through internal company fundraising events.

Looking back, I had a fantastic wife who gave me two wonderful children, and 25 years of fun. I never thought I’d live again, but along came Hannah and I was lucky enough to re-marry in 2012.

My friends are often slack-jawed in amazement when I describe myself as a lucky man. But I am lucky, and happy.

St Michael’s contributed to that, and I salute them.

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