Brenda and Barry’s Story: How Weldmar supported a young family, and how the farming community rallied to raise funds
25th October 2023< BACK TO NEWS
Many people have done unusual things to raise money for Weldmar Hospicecare over the years, but there was a first in late 2022 when a steer was auctioned at market, and raised an incredible £5,000.
The steer was owned by Barry Tuck and Brenda House, part of their herd at their farm near Bere Regis. It was their daughter, Michelle, who said it would be a good idea to auction it for charity one day. Little could anyone in the family imagine that this would be in memory of Michelle, following her final days spent at Weldmar’s Inpatient Unit in Dorchester at the age of just 38.
Michelle – Chelley to close friends and family – had three daughters, aged 11, 8, and 4. Very soon after her diagnosis, Weldmar’s Children and Young Person’s Bereavement Counsellor stepped in swiftly. Brenda says, “Sandra would come out to the farm and spend time with the girls. She would play with them or take them for a walk, giving them the opportunity to talk. It meant that if there was something they felt they couldn’t talk to us about, or their mum about, or didn’t want to make us cry, there was somebody there for them.”
Sandra would also visit the children at school in Puddletown, away from the family home, and Brenda says the school were very accommodating and supportive. “They have transitioned through this period of not having a mummy anymore so confidently,” explains Brenda. “and that’s got to be down to being able to talk about it.”
It was May 2022 when Michelle was admitted to hospital, and from there she moved directly to the hospice, and the news on her arrival came as something of a shock. Brenda says, “As soon as she got there, everyone was so open and honest with her, and that is what she wanted. A doctor came to see her and said
it was highly unlikely she would be able to go home. She hadn’t realised the end was so close. It wasn’t pleasant to hear, but we needed that honesty”
“She was there for ten days, and Weldmar couldn’t have done more for her. They offered her therapies and massages. The chef came in one day, and Chelley wasn’t really eating much, and they would have prepared anything for her that she wanted. You can see just how caring everybody there is.”
The family were given Marion’s Room at the Inpatient Unit, which had only recently been opened – a new spacious and comfortable family room with additional beds, its own kitchenette and bathroom facilities, and lounge area.
“We could take the girls in and not have to worry that they were disturbing anyone else,” says Brenda. “and we saw Sandra who continued to provide support for them. Having that room made such a difference to us. We felt so supported as a family, and they did everything they could to make Michelle, and us, as comfortable as we could be.”
Barry says that they invited the auctioneer to come and see the steer soon afterwards. “The support we had through the worst time of our life made us want to do something for Weldmar. The steer was valued at around twelve hundred pounds, so we hoped we could raise almost double and make £2,000. Southern Counties Auctioneers donated £500 which got us off to a great start. Normally you would just book a steer in for auction, but because we wanted to raise this money they advertised it in their catalogue beforehand.”
This publicity from the auctioneer proved to make a huge difference. Unbeknown to Brenda and Barry, a local farmer who saw the advert had recently lost his wife – who was also cared for by Weldmar. He went to the auction with the express purpose of buying the steer. Along with a number of additional donations on the day, and a final top up from the couple themselves, they were able to present Weldmar with a cheque for £5,000. “The local farming community really came together,” says Barry, “and we are really grateful to them.”
Michelle’s family and friends have gone on to raise even more for Weldmar in her memory – cousin Louise, uncle Ian, and childhood friend Jo cycled from London to Paris, and raised a further £3,627!
Brenda says it’s been important for them to support Weldmar. “It was just the kindness of everyone, and allowing us to be there. Because we had the family room someone could be with Chelley at all times, she knew we were there with her, and that meant everything to me.”