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Spotlight on the Membership

In this new monthly feature we shine the spotlight on our members and take a peek at what motivates them to put some good into the World. This month we're focusing on two of our newest members, Novices Alex and Sally.


 

As Maria says in ‘The Sound of Music’; let’s start at the very beginning, it’s a very good place to start.


Alex and Sally have not always been as involved in charities as they are now, but their interesting pasts and life events – some good, some not so good, have brought them to where they are now.



Alex served in the Royal Air Force as a Qualified Police Dog Handler.


He served all over the world during some of the harshest conflicts, seeing friends wounded, sometimes fatally. While serving in Cyprus, he experienced a heart condition called Atrial Fibrillation which causes irregular and fast heartbeats. He did not quite receive the treatment he should have and eventually he needed a heart transplant.



He was fitted with an LVAD device which had to have the batteries changed every three hours to keep him alive but was told he wasn’t ill enough to be on benefits!


He eventually underwent a heart transplant at Papworth Hospital in Jan 2013. His weight halved from a strong 18 stone to just 9 stone.



Shortly after recovering from this, he was knocked down by a young male coming downhill on a bike at 26 miles per hour. As he weighed so little, he was flipped up in the air, landing on his head which caused severe trauma and he was placed in a coma.


Alex had to learn to walk and talk again and both his mental and physical health suffered greatly.



You wouldn't believe it if you saw him now, but Alex has been clinically dead 7 times due to the head and heart operations. He was told by a doctor that as he had a reduced life expectancy due to the transplant, and now had the head injury, he would be better off going on benefits for the rest of his life.


Alex had a different opinion on things. He felt this would set a poor example to his two sons, and so he began working with adults who have learning difficulties, collecting for Military charities, and progressed his way through the education system to become a teacher of welding in the engineering workshop at HMP Hull. He now works to rehabilitate offenders, so they are employable once they leave prison.


Sally got married to her first husband in September 2000, but it soon became apparent he was not the man she first thought. Over 12 years, she experienced domestic abuse. She was able to go out to work, but her other movements were all controlled, and she was distanced from her friends. Financial control came next and eventually the physical abuse started. Finally, in 2012, she had enough courage to leave him. The first few months were a blessing as she and her daughter felt free.


However, Sally's daughter soon started to have flashbacks about what she had witnessed. Thankfully she was never directly hurt physically, but what she'd seen her mother go through led to her becoming anxious and depressed.


In February 2018, Kelly took a huge overdose made up of tablets she had got from several people’s houses without their knowing. She was hospitalised for days and did enough damage to be registered disabled for the rest of her life. Sally has since been full-time carer to her daughter who has miraculously recovered enough to hold down a small part-time job.


Sally and Alex met soon after in March 2018 in the village pub. And what was only ever supposed to be a brief fling soon turned into a real love affair!


These experiences could have pushed Alex and Sally deep into a blackhole of depression, and although things have been far from ideal together they have been able to turn these negative experiences into positives. They say that what they've been through thus far has tought them to make the most out of what they have.


Life is for living.



As well as their focusing on their own happiness, they have been motivated to do what whatever they can to help other people.


When you have been at rock bottom, you would not wish those feelings of dread on anyone.


Sally has run the Duke of Edinburgh Awards at Tranby School (formerly Hull Collegiate) since 2013, clocking up nearly 50 bronze expeditions, 37 silver expeditions and 20 gold expeditions. This is over 6000km of walking! In 2018, shortly after getting her Open University Degree in Classical Studies with Religious Studies, she was invited to attend the Garden Party at Buckingham Palace for services to D of E. Getting a Degree and running a scheme which let her go out for long walks and go camping was something she never imagined possible a few years previously.


In 2019, Sally took a group of her Sixth Form pupils to Uganda in Africa to volunteer. Alex helped her in her fundraising efforts, doing charity walks, tombolas, and other events. The money they raised paid for benches to be installed at Great Lakes High School and for a playground to be built at Nyakabungo Primary School. One of their fundraising ideas was to collect foreign currency which can be converted back into pounds.



While Sally was busy with Uganda, Alex decided to help with men’s mental health by organising outings on St George’s Day dressed as Knights Templar, then also doing ‘Fez Day’. This meant ex-military and civilian men got together socially and built a support network.


(faces obscured due to their job)


As part of his work rehabilitating male offenders, one of Alex’s projects was to make a model of a dog from dog collar tags. This went on display at Tatton Garden Flower Show and raised funds for Hull4Heroes. It also brought the charity a lot of positive media attention.



Alex and Sally have travelled the world together, taking their brand of humour with them and encouraging interfaith dialogue, tolerance, and love through laughter. This includes sticking wobbly eyes on random things (Googly Eye Lovers on Facebook), lighting candles in remembrance of loved ones (4 candles group on Facebook) which anyone can use as a tool for reflection. These have been lit in buildings sacred to many different religions, including at the river Ganges in India (Buddhism and Hinduism), the Golden Temple at Amritsar (Sikhism), Bradford’s Grand Mosque (Islam) and at Mount Nebo in Jordan which was Moses’ final resting place (Judaism and Christianity). In Jordan, they also visited Karak Castle, a Templar site! They also lit candles at the Convento di Cristo in Tomar, Portugal – a major Templar site.



During their trip to New York, they visited 9/11 and took merchandise from Hull Military charities to give to the people at Ground Zero. That year, for Remembrance Day, Sally had also organised a scheme to paint Poppies on rocks with the name of each of the 230+ former pupils of her school who died during the two World Wars. Pupils donated £1 to have their rock hidden somewhere in the UK or abroad, and there was a Twitter hashtag for people to tweet where they found it, then hide it somewhere else!



As part of their travels, Alex and Sally has a few days in London, where a mysterious turn of events led to Alex volunteering to be Brian Blessed’s bodyguard! He was doing the commentary for a Thames cruise and a group of stalkers were waiting for him at the end. Alex jokingly offered to be his close protection back to his car at which point Brian shouted, “I’ll have that man!” (Do your own internal Brian voice!). They ended up swapping military stories and contact details.



While the country was in lockdown, Sally won £260 playing online bingo. While this is a nice amount, it is not lifechanging, so the pair decided to use the money to give something back to the community. It was agreed with the vicar, Rev. Gemma Turner, that the aftereffects of Covid would be poor mental health as well as physical, and financial worries.


They set up a group called CHAT (Communities Helping All Together) and held regular coffee mornings which provided counselling (Sally is a trained counsellor), benefits and disability rights advice, and free or low-cost social activities. Since it started in 2022, they now have nearly 300 followers on Facebook. They have taken people to Bletchley Park, Polar Express, Blackpool Illuminations, Christmas Markets, Harry Potter Studios, and seaside day trips. The CHAT groups meet regularly for coffee, which is all on a ‘pay what you can’ basis.


Sally and Alex collect the food from local supermarkets every night at 9pm which would otherwise go in the bin. This is then redistributed to those in the greatest need, with the surplus being on offer to anyone who can take it to avoid food waste. They raised enough money for two large fridges to go in the Church Hall to store the food safely until it can be collected.


One of the CHAT activities was a Guinness World Record attempt for the most people playing ‘Pin the Tail on the Donkey’, done at Easter 2022 to raise money for the local foodbank. Sally had already organised two other successful record attempts; one in 2017 for the most people doing the ‘Saturday Night’ dance by Whigfield. This raised funds for Uganda. Then in November 2021, she organised the most people wearing Pudsey Bear finger puppets to raise money for Children in Need. Sally and Alex also hold a record for taking part in a global 10km challenge meaning Sally has 4 World Records and Alex has 2.



In 2022, Sally and Alex were finally able to tie the knot officially. 6 months before, they had a traditional Viking handfasting hosted by theViking re-enactement group Jorfor’s Hall at Murton Park.



160 people came to the day reception and 120 to the evening reception. This was all done for charity with games, raffles and profits from the bar all being donated to Papworth hospital. The vicar, Reverend Gemma Turner, waived the cost to hire the hall, meaning that money could also be donated to charity.

The following January was Alex’s 10 year transplant anniversary. So Sally threw a surprise party. Again the money from the games, raffle and bar went to Papworth. These 2 events raised around £2000 for the place that saved Alex’s life.



Our local BBC Look North presenter, Peter Levy came to one of our events to support the homeless community in Hull.


The CHAT group continues to grow, and we now also provide a free Christmas Dinner every Christmas Eve, which the Templars donated to in 2023. We also run a free breakfast club during the school holidays. Both of these are aimed at people on low income or who are isolated but they are open to everyone in our community with no proof of entitlement, eligibility, or income required.



The other charities that Alex and Sally have supported in the past include:

  • Working Military Dogs Memorial - As this is close to Alex’s heart, he wanted to support the memorial of animlas who have given their life during conflict.

  • Mencap - Sally organised and ‘odd sock’ day at school to show support for people who have additional need and learning difficulties.

  • Special Stars Foundation - This supports children who use sensory rooms to help with their disabilities.

  • Macmillan Cancer - Coffee mornings at work raised over £2000 last September Ladled with Love. Providing free food to the Homeless Community in Hull.

  • Save The Children - Christmas Jumper Day every December.

  • The Children’s Society - Making the Christingles for the school services.

  • Bridge for Heroes - Supporting Veterans in Norfolk.

  • WISHH - Hull and East Riding Children’s Hospital charity.



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