Peterborough nurses go from night shifts to dragon boat as popular festival returns

Members of the Sue Ryder dragon boat team
Members of the Sue Ryder dragon boat team
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Big-hearted staff at Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice are taking to the water on Saturday, June 8 to compete in the Peterborough Dragon Boat Festival, for which the hospice is the charity partner.

Nurses are swapping their Sue Ryder nursing uniforms for t-shirts and hospice support staff their pens for paddles to compete against more than 40 local groups and organisations paddling along the banks of the Peterborough Rowing Club as part of the IKEA-sponsored fabulous day of fundraising.

Sue Ryder ‘Thorpe Dragons’ team includes Sue Ryder nurses, some of whom are coming straight after their night shift to take part, a ward clerk, a medical secretary, a human rights lead and Sue Ryder’s director of nursing.

Between them the team has helped deliver the charity’s expert and compassionate palliative care for more than 30 years, but have much less experience of paddling a dragon boat.

Diane Deidda is finance assistant at the hospice and is drummer for the team. She said: “This is the first time I have ever taken part in dragon boat racing. As team drummer I will be letting my natural sense of rhythm guide me and the rest of the team!”

Diane will be joined by complementary therapy lead Helen Spivak, who said: “I’ve never done this before but I am really looking forward to the atmosphere on the day. It’s going to be lively, noisy and without a doubt a bit soggy. My friends and family, particularly my two sons, think it is hilarious that I will be rowing as my coordination is rubbish – sorry team!”

Fellow dragon boat competitor Jenny Burton has worked at the hospice for 14 years. She said: “I have not undertaken any formal training but I have been out in a White Swan Pedalo with my grandson for an hour. I am really looking forward to supporting the hospice, spending a day with work colleagues, seeing everyone have a bit of fun and raising money at the same time.”

The charity’s human rights lead Jacqui Graves is making a special journey from Oxfordshire to Peterborough on the day to join her Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice colleagues on the team. She said: “It is good to be giving something back to help improve the care for people who need our services. I am slightly nervous as I have never done a dragon boat race before.

“I don’t have access to a river or a boat to practice, so it will be on the day learning for me. I have been watching some YouTube videos for hints and tips though as I am quite competitive.”

Fellow dragon boat crew member and head of administration/data analyst Lisa Manton added: “I have always thought the Dragon Boat Festival has sounded like real fun, so I wanted to be part of the team this year. I am looking forward to a day out on the water helping to raise vital funds for the many local families needing our care.”

Experienced dragon boat crew member Debbie Smith, who is medical secretary at the hospice, said: “I really enjoyed taking part in last year’s Dragon Boat Race so jumped at the chance to take part again this year. It is such a fantastic atmosphere. My husband will be on the banks supporting us and shouting encouraging tips as he was a rower in the Sue Ryder team last year too.”

This is the fifth year that the hospice in Thorpe Road has been charity partner for the Peterborough Dragon Boat Festival, which is organised by Gable Events and has seen more than £70,000 raised for local people and families needing expert and compassionate palliative care.

Last year alone £35,000 was raised for the hospice, and it is hoped the record-breaking amount will be smashed this year to help the hospice give more care to more people.

Nilesh Patel, hospice senior community fundraiser, said: “This is one of the flagship fundraising events for our hospice and the day shows everyone what a big-hearted community Peterborough is to be part of.

“It’s fantastic that we have been able to show our own support by entering a team of Sue Ryder staff, who are themselves raising funds for the very care they help give.”

The festival begins on Saturday from 10am at Peterborough Rowing Club, Thorpe Meadows.

There will be lots of entertainment and refreshment stalls making it a fun day out for all the family. For more info visit: www.dragonboatfestivals.co.uk/peterborough.

To donate to Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice’s Dragon Boat team, visit: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/thorpedragons.