Monday, 18 December 2017

Couple who lost baby to trek 146 miles for bereavement charity

A COUPLE who lost their daughter to cot death are to walk 146 miles for a grief counselling charity.

A COUPLE who lost their daughter to cot death are to walk 146 miles for a grief counselling charity.

Jill and Howard Poll, of Rotherfield Road, Henley, will set off on the 11-day trek from Winchester to Canterbury on Wednesday.

The couple are raising money for Child Bereavement UK and have already smashed their original target of £2,000.

The Polls were living in Canterbury in 1979 when they lost their daughter Ellen, who was only three months old.

Four years later, they moved to Henley with their three other children, Louise, Sam and Lorna, who are now 36, 34 and 32 respectively.

The couple decided to tackle the challenge as they are keen walkers and both are celebrating landmark birthdays. Mrs Poll turned 60 last month and Mr Poll will be 65 later this month.

Mrs Poll said: “We would normally have a party but we felt we had everything we needed and wanted to support the charity instead.

“It started with us telling our friends to donate money instead of buying presents and from there one thing led to another.”

The couple will be joined on the first day of the walk by their cocker spaniel Ebony, who will then be looked after by friends.

They will trek along Pilgrims’ Way, which connects the two cathedral cities via Guildford.

En route, they will stay with friends or at hotels, most of which have offered free accommodation.

When they arrive in Canterbury, the couple will be greeted by Mrs Poll’s mother Muriel Jennings, 83, and sister Ro, 54.

Mrs Poll said: “We do a lot of walking because of Ebony but we’ve never done anything on this scale.

“We have done a few longer walks to prepare for it and we’re just praying that we’ll get through it.

“It all gets a bit scary sometimes but we can’t back out of it now. It will be worth all the effort because it’s for such a fantastic charity.”

Mrs Poll began volunteering for CBUK in 1996 and became a patron seven years ago. She has trained as a counsellor and works with bereaved families at the charity’s headquarters in Saunderton, near High Wycombe.

She said: “When Ellen died, there was no support available to us — it was ruled as a straightforward cot death and that was that. We didn’t have anyone to turn to professionally. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, that’s just how it was back then.

“That would never happen now. CBUK would have been there for us, as it is for many families.

“It also advises teachers, doctors and even people like vicars on how they can give support when a child dies.

“The people around a bereaved family can make a huge difference if they know what’s going on and understand how to deal with it.

“I want to make sure other people don’t go through what I went through and will do whatever I can to help.”

She has held several fund-raisers at Phyllis Court Club in Henley that have raised more than £250,000.

The most recent event in 2008 was attended by celebrity chef and fellow CBUK patron Antony Worrall Thompson and raised £75,000.

Tomorrow (Saturday), the Three Horseshoes in Reading Road will host a charity games night from 8pm.

Landlords Nigel and Julie Rainbow are both supporters of CBUK and Mrs Rainbow ran in last year’s London Marathon in aid of the charity.

To sponsor the Polls, visit www.justgiving.com/jill-poll

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