Father urges others to take on challenge for hospice

A man from Brighton, who lost his son in 2016, is joining Chestnut Tree House children’s hospice in asking people to take on the South Coast Challenge and raise money for this local charity.

Tom Underhill is passionate about raising money for the hospice after they cared for him and his partner when they lost their son Bobby, who was born sleeping on 21 December 2016. “I really don’t know what would have happened if Chestnut Tree House hadn’t been there,” he explains.

“We were all over the place after Bobby was born but Chestnut Tree House came to see us at the hospital, explained all of our options and then provided a place for him to stay over Christmas. They gave us the opportunity to spend time with him and to do the things we needed to in order to say goodbye. Christmas Day is also my birthday and I really just wanted to see him, so they opened up especially and allowed me to go and have a drink with my son.”

The couple have a special stone for Bobby in the memorial garden at Chestnut Tree House and have attended a memorial event. “It was hard to go back to the House, but it was also good to meet others in the same situation and to be able to talk about what happened.”

Tom took on the South Coast Challenge himself last year, choosing the 50km route along with his sister Kerry Underhill. He says: “it wasn’t easy but I really enjoyed it. I was struggling at the half way mark but got speaking to some other walkers and we made it to the end together.”

The South Coast Challenge takes place over the August Bank Holiday weekend, with around 2,000 people expected to take on their choice of a 23km Quarter, 50km Half or 100km Full Challenge. It is open to both men and women, with those taking part encouraged to set their own pace; walking, jogging or running the distance. It starts in Eastbourne and finishes in Arundel and is fully supported, with rest stops, food and drink available along the whole route.

Chestnut Tree House cares for around 300 children with life-shortening conditions and their families across East and West Sussex and South East Hampshire, helping them live For The Now. They also continue to support 52 families whose children sadly passed away over the last year. It costs over £3.9 million every year to provide Chestnut Tree House’s care and less than 6% of that comes from central government, meaning they rely heavily on fundraising in order to continue offering care.

For anyone thinking of taking on the South Coast Challenge for Chestnut Tree House Tom says “I would really urge everyone to support Chestnut Tree House and the great work they do – not just for children but for adults and families too. We were amazed at the support they offered us when we didn’t have a clue what was happening, and the fact that they came to us rather than us going to them really made all the difference.”

You can find out more about the South Coast Challenge, as well as the work of the hospice, at www.chestnut-tree-house.org.uk/south-coast-challenge/.

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