Colourthon Founder Shares the Story Behind the Walk

On Saturday 6th July, Southend will see the return of the Colourthon for its 13th year. A charity fun walk with a twist, it supports many local charities including the charity which cared for the parents of the man who initially had the idea.

Julian Hart, 56, from Southend had the inspiration to create the annual event in 2006 with the intention to support smaller and local charities. He explains,

“As a member of Southend Round Table we used to receive many requests for donations from local charities and beneficiaries who were fundraising for equipment, for example, but it was also apparent they would love a vehicle in which they could fundraise for themselves but in many cases did not have the infrastructure or manpower required”.

“I had myself a few years earlier taken part in the Moonwalk in London and it was fantastic! I saw the opportunity to create – what I like to term – am umbrella event based around that idea. Early one morning in the back of a car on a business trip to Birmingham with a couple of fellow Round Tablers we developed the idea in more detail for what was to become The Colourthon. From there we sought and gained the unanimous approval from the other members and the first event took place after 17 months planning, on 7th July 2007. Round Table is a fantastic organisation with a great social side but, equally, an absolute passion for supporting our local communities. It is also made up of young men from many varied walks of life, trades and professions with a variety of expertise which is perfect if you’re trying to arrange an event on a totally voluntary basis!”

One of the charities Julian wanted to help was Fair Havens Hospice, which is part of Havens Hospices. The charity, which also includes Little Havens Hospice and The J’s Hospice, cared for both of Julian’s parents at the end of their lives at their current building in Westcliff-on-Sea.

Julian’s mum, Dawn, was diagnosed with bowel cancer on New Year’s Eve in 2000 and was admitted to Fair Havens specifically for end-of-life care in late October 2001, she died on 30th October aged 64.

“Mum died the day after my 39th birthday; so, my birthday was spent here at Fair Havens. She was only in here for a week or so, but the whole experience was truly amazing. It is an emotional minefield when a parent is ill; you watch them become distressed and going through many hospital visits. it is difficult to watch, and you start to develop a feeling of helplessness. Mum was at home through most of her illness with my father, and in many respects, it was even worse for him. The moment she was admitted to Fair Havens, though, it lifted a whole weight from our shoulders. There are so many things family members need to do coupled with the emotional pressure and it can be quite daunting, so to have the professional yet compassionate support of Fair Havens was a true godsend”.

In 2015 Julian’s dad, Alan, was diagnosed with kidney failure, amongst other conditions. Following his diagnosis, Alan spent a lot of time in and out of hospital and in the end refused dialysis. “All we could do was keep him comfortable, try to keep him out of pain and give him the best quality of life. Initially Dad was being cared for at home but was deteriorating fast and we needed more full time help and ideally to get him into Fair Havens” Julian explains. “Fair Havens and hospice care had all been new to us with Mum, but Dad had received such a positive experience he’d always hoped he could be there too”.

Initially a room was not available for him but, with the outreach support, Julian finally received that magic telephone call saying they had a bed Alan and in September 2018 he was admitted to Fair Havens.

“We knew he would be expertly cared for and was in the best place possible. It’s genuinely not an exaggeration to say that the whole set up at Havens from the staff, doctors and nurses through to the kitchen and maintenance guys, everyone involved gets it, they’re all part of the care and it’s remarkable”. Alan died aged 81 on 19th September 2018.

In 2018, Julian was recognised at the Southend Citizen Awards for his charity work, in particular the Colourthon.

“When I received notification of the award, I thought it was a prank, but it turns out it wasn’t,” he says. “At the award ceremony they spoke about Colourthon which to date has now raised over £1.53m for 720 different charities. I got to meet other recipients of these awards and it just astounds me – we have such a huge number of volunteers in this country who are amazing. These are people giving their time and energy for a myriad of causes, day in, day out, without any thought of reward and this sort of occasion really brings it home to you. These people are the backbone of our society and it’s quite humbling to be among such extraordinary people”.

“Whist genuinely grateful for the recognition, to be honest, I felt a little bit guilty receiving it as whilst kicking off the original idea, there were many other people who were instrumental in making it happen,” continues Julian. “It quite simply would never have happened without my family, fellow Tablers, really close friends and people who selflessly gave so much of their time and effort and ignored my tantrums, to make Colourthon so successful. So, I look at this as being a joint award with them for all of their efforts and would urge young men to get involved with the Round Table, it’ll definitely be one of the best decisions they will make.”

Julian’s award also came with a charitable donation of £250 for the charity of his choice which he chose to donate to help Fair Havens Hospice ‘take the next step’ campaign and towards building a purpose-built facility which will be able to care for twice as many patients from across Southend, Castle Point and Rochford.

“When I was given the donation I chose Fair Havens Hospice as a thank you and because at some stage in our lives it’s likely we will all need this kind of support which is really costly to run, so now more than ever it is vitally important to support them as they embark on the next part of their journey and in the hope that many others will benefit from this wonderful facility”, he says.

The Colourthon returns on Saturday 6th July at 6pm, participants can choose to take part in either the Moonlight Colourthon which is a half marathon fun walk or the Twilight Colourthon 10K fun walk. Both walks have cash prizes donated to the winners’ nominated charities for ‘best costume’, ‘most sponsorship raised’ and ‘largest team’. To register please click here.

The new Fair Havens is now taking shape and the charity are now only £850,000 from raising all the money needed for the building. If you’ve been inspired by Julian’s story and would like to help Havens Hospices secure the future of local hospice care please click here or choose to walk The Colourthon for the charity when you register.

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