Neil Thomas, a committed community fundraiser from Torquay, has been nominated for the esteemed Pride of Britain Award for his inspirational hard work and achievement in aid of Rowcroft Hospice. In August, Neil took on a gruelling challenge walk from Big Ben in London to Torquay’s very own Little Ben, raising awareness for his local hospice along the way and clocking up an astonishing £28,000 to fund vital patient care in South Devon.
In 1997, Neil’s Dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and was cared for as an outpatient by Rowcroft Hospice. Neil said: “My Dad was very, very well looked after by the amazing staff, with love, dignity and care. From then, I had always wanted to do my bit to help raise funds and awareness for Rowcroft.”
In completing his heroic 200-mile walk, not only did Neil win the hearts and minds of his local community, but he has also been shortlisted for the Regional Fundraiser of the Year Award, as part of the Pride of Britain Awards 2020 which celebrate unsung heroes who make the world a better place.
“I’m totally honoured as well as excited to have even be nominated for such a prestigious award,” says Neil. “So to have made it to the final four in the region is overwhelming. It would be incredible to win this title, not just for me, for my family and friends, but also for Rowcroft Hospice.
“It was a real privilege to represent Rowcroft – such an amazing charity that really helps local people. I know the money will be very wisely spent and it will help loads of people in their most difficult times to have a little more comfort and peace.
Neil wanted to do something different to anything that had been done before. He completed his epic walk without spending any money on food or accommodation, relying on the generosity of the public to help him on his way.
Watch ITV Neil Thomas Pride of Britain Interview
“One of the highlights was reading all the messages and comments from everyone who supported me,” explains Neil. “It was like they were taking part in the challenge with me. There were points when I was really tired, hungry and thirsty – but I was motivated by sheer grit and determination because I didn’t want to let anyone down.
“I would like to thank every single person who joined the Facebook page and talked about the challenge to their friends and families, everyone who got involved and showed love and support for their local hospice. Together, we have raised more than £28,000 because of everybody’s hard work.”
To find out more about Neil’s journey (alongside the other finalists), keep an eye on ITV West Country News, every evening this week from 6pm. The winner will be announced on Friday 2 October. The National Awards Ceremony usually takes place towards the end of October or early November at the Grosvenor Hotel in London, but due to COVID-19, the event hasn’t yet been confirmed. For further information, please check the updates on their website at www.prideofbritain.com
Neil hopes that his fundraising efforts will shed some light on the important work that hospices do across the country, and on how crucial it is to support our local hospices. As a charity, Rowcroft relies heavily on fundraising and donations to fund its expert end-of-life care for local patients and families, but due to the pandemic, the charity has suffered a devastating loss of income this year. Rowcroft is so grateful to its fundraisers like Neil who take on such amazing challenges to raise vital funds for patient care.
“We are so thankful to Neil and to all our community fundraisers for everything they are doing to support the hospice,” says Alison Upton, Rowcroft’s Community Fundraising Manager. “The money raised is used to fund expert end-of-life care in our community, supporting patients and families who need us across South Devon. Our income has been hit hard by the pandemic, so the support of our community fundraisers is making the world of difference in helping us to continue to care for our community.”
If you want to take on a challenge like Neil’s please visit: rowcrofthospice.org.uk/events/category/challenge-yourself/ or for more information about Rowcroft Hospice, see: www.rowcrofthospice.org.uk or call 01803 210800.