Holiday friendships are in my experience usually just that – enjoyable companionship for the duration of the holiday. But in 1986 one friendship began that lasted 34 years, ending only when my friend died.

In April 1986, I joined a small group of walkers for a holiday in Salzburg. Leading our group was a sprightly 65-year-old lady – Margaret (please note name changed for anonymity) . Margaret had travelled widely after retirement and was an experienced walk leader. We started to chat as we walked and Margaret asked me about my job. Usually I am very reticent to discuss work on holiday but I was at the beginning of researching the need for a children’s hospice in East London and I was not getting very far. Children’s hospices were a new concept in the care of life-limited and life threatened children and no research had been undertaken to determine the need. In 1986 there were two in the UK with another two in the planning stage. No one else was planning a hospice in the capital as far as I was aware.

Chatting on walks and in the evenings, I could see that Margaret was intrigued by my vision. I tried to describe to her what it was like for families caring for a child with a life threatening illness or profound disability with limited professional support available then. As we parted at the end of a very enjoyable week we exchanged contact details and she wished me well and indicated she wanted to be kept informed about my progress.

Shortly after my return home Margaret invited me to visit her and she gave me my first typewriter – an old Olivetti portable – very much needed and appreciated (no computers then of course). We continued to meet up, usually every three months and enjoyed walks along the Thames, stopping at one of the lovely villages for lunch or tea. Margaret always wanted the up to date news on how things were progressing.

On one occasion early in 1990, I was about to leave her flat to return to London when she handed me an envelope and told me not to open it until I was home. To my total amazement I found a cheque for £500. My team and I were preparing for charity registration so I was hesitant to accept this gift until the Charity Commission had given us their seal of approval but Margaret was adamant. Later that year Margaret asked me for the charity registration number. as she was writing her will.

Our friendship continued as we progressed to building Richard House and we continued to meet up fairly regularly. Over the next few years Margaret sent several very generous donations to Richard House. Her health was causing her some concerns but she was able to come with family members to our official opening in June 2003. Shortly after that she moved to be nearer family but we kept in touch until her death earlier this year. I was almost speechless when I was informed that my holiday friend had left the hospice much needed funds through a gift in her will, coming at a time when COVID-19 is having such a negative impact on the work of all charities.

I am so grateful that I shared my vision with Margaret and that even in those far off days she believed Richard House would happen.

Anthea Hare – Founder and Life President

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