The lasting legacy of the London 2012 Paralympic Games lives on in a charity volunteer from Ipswich. Gail Johnson signed up for the sporting spectacle and helped out at the blind five-a-side football, at the Riverbank Arena.
She loved every minute and it was in readiness for getting involved that she decided she wanted to volunteer closer to home, for a Suffolk charity.
From 2011, she started lending her support to various events organised by East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH) and, since 2017, has been helping in the fundraising office at The Treehouse, in Ipswich.
“I got the bug for volunteering before helping out at the Paralympics, back in the summer of 2011,” said Gail.
“I thought that if I could give up a whole fortnight to be there, I could spare some time to support a worthy cause closer to home. I decided to find out more in terms of local options.
“I read some charity adverts in a publication and did a few bits and pieces, including helping EACH with bucket collections and at the Splash Out! and Whole Hog events.
“It went well and I particularly enjoyed spending time with the fundraising team.”
Gail’s circumstances changed after taking voluntary redundancy in 2017. She initially thought it would be good to keep her hand in while looking for a new job, so started volunteering in the fundraising office.
However, she then decided she had had enough of work – she was also looking after her parents at that stage – so started dedicated a day a week to EACH.
“I love it and will do anything that needs doing, including sending thankyou letters to people who have donated money,” said the keen gardener, who also enjoys swimming and going to the gym.
“I might also be asked to prepare or research for forthcoming events or do any general admin or clerical work that needs doing. I enjoy being in the office because it’s such a friendly environment.
“I love meeting new people and find it both worthwhile and great fun. It gives you the chance to do things you wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to do.
“I still help with events, including bucket collections and at the popup Christmas card shop in Ipswich.”
Gail, who worked in IT for 30 years, including the last 12 for Suffolk County Council, has fond memories of her time volunteering in London.
She was effective a “runner” for blind five-a-side football, doing all sorts of jobs, including taking team sheets to the press box before games. She also had responsibilities both at half-time and after matches.
“It was an amazing experience and, in addition to volunteering, we were given spare tickets for evening events at the Olympic Stadium.
“It gave us an opportunity to see lots of things and it was so enjoyable, although they were long days. Most of the time I was on the first train into the city and then the last train home.”
When Gail started helping in the office, the fundraising HQ was at Ransomes Europark. Now the team are based at The Treehouse.
“I enjoy spending time in the hospice,” she said.
“I felt a bit disconnected when we were at a different site, whereas now we’re part of things. Before I only knew the fundraising team whereas now I’ve had the chance to meet the care and admin teams.
“You see hospice life through your own eyes and when you’re volunteering and helping raise money, it’s nice seeing where those funds are being spent. It spurs you on even more.”
There are other ways to support EACH, including helping its facilities and administration teams, or being part of the charity’s Help at Home service.
To find out more, email email@example.com