The Kirkwood celebrates 35th Anniversary of providing care to people in need

The dream of providing the highest quality care for people in Kirklees affected by a life limiting illness was made real in March 1987 as David Stocks, founder of the Huddersfield Hospice appeal, and Dr. Alan Barlow attended the official opening ceremony at Kirkwood Hospice in Dalton.

35 years on, The Kirkwood are marking the special anniversary by celebrating the achievements of those who came before, whilst finding new ways to reach those in need.

On Friday 18th March, it was exactly 35 years since the very first patient was admitted into The Kirkwood’s care. The opening of The Kirkwood’s Inpatient Unit was an important milestone in the history of this local charity – whose aim is to help anyone affected by a life-limiting illness, and who provide services right across Kirklees, in people’s homes and care homes, in local towns and villages and at their hospice in Dalton, Huddersfield.

Dr. Alan Barlow (left) and David Stocks (right) lay the foundation stone in February 1986.

The Kirkwood’s official opening back in 1987 was the culmination of over six years of hard work by a group of passionate campaigners. Not satisfied with the lack of care provision for people approaching the end of their lives and determined to change the status quo, a small band of local activists led by David and Alan rallied a movement of people around their cause. Over those first few years, thousands came together to make the dream of a hospice for Kirklees a reality.

Raising funds to build the first Inpatient Unit at their hospice in Dalton was a labour of love for the devoted volunteers, fundraisers and supporters who joined together to realise the dream of a more compassionate form of care for those confronting the end of life.

The official ribbon-cutting ceremony, which took place in early March 1987, remains a powerful symbol of what The Kirkwood can achieve when local people work together with one goal. Even now, 35 years since the nursing team welcomed the first patient into their care, The Kirkwood continues to take inspiration from those who came before.

Dr. Alan Barlow (left) and David Stocks (right) help actress Kathy Staff cut the ribbon to make the official opening of Kirkwood Hospice on 5th March 1987.

Michael Crowther, Chief Executive with The Kirkwood, is proud to be leading The Kirkwood movement during this special anniversary year.

Michael said: “I am extremely proud to represent this truly unique charity. The last two years have been tough for everyone, including our dedicated clinical and medical teams, fundraisers, supporters and volunteers. But most importantly, it’s been difficult for our patients, their families and those who are most vulnerable in our community. To be able to celebrate the 35th Anniversary of caring for our first patient brings home how resilient and dedicated The Kirkwood movement truly is.

“Thirty-five years after the official ribbon was cut, our movement is stronger than ever. In many ways, we have realised the vision of our founding pioneers; offering care for anyone affected by any life-limiting illness in our community.

“In our very first appeal letter, our founders stated that their ambition was to care for people in their own homes as well as at our hospice in Dalton. Today, it is The Kirkwood Nurses – and not nurses from other charities – who deliver specialist palliative care in people’s own homes and care homes. We do this for patients with cancer, heart disease, lung conditions and any other life-limiting illness that impacts a patient’s quality of life”

The Kirkwood’s services look a little different than it did back in 1987, but the charity’s mission remains the same today as it was for those whose vision helped to found the charity; to provide the very best care for anyone affected by any life-limiting illness, every step of the way.

“The traditional view of hospices is that they are a place, an Inpatient Unit that cares for people at the very end of life. And whilst our hospice was and remains a huge part of what we do, we were never just a building.

“Today, The Kirkwood is not ‘just a building’, an Inpatient Unit or place of care. Our services reach across Kirklees, and our care is offered in people’s own homes, in care homes and in towns and villages across our diverse community.

During this special year, The Kirkwood is aiming to reach more people who might benefit from their services but don’t know about the many ways they might help.

Our first Matron, John Murgatroyd (front centre) pictured with members of the original team.

Michael continued: “Our founders came together to help everyone in need across our community, and so we owe it all whose efforts helped to build and sustain our vital local charity to never rest until every person, in every street, village and town here in Kirklees has access to our care and support – whenever and wherever they need it.

“This year is going to be a really exciting one for The Kirkwood. As well as looking back at our rich history and paying tribute to those who have come before us, we are also looking to the future. We want to help more people understand how we can help, and the many different ways we offer care and support.

“The coronavirus pandemic gave us an opportunity to rethink the way we offer services across Kirklees, and we’ll also be trialling a range of new initiatives in this special anniversary year, with the aim of bringing more services to people in their local community.”

Another way The Kirkwood is aiming to raise their profile during their 35th Anniversary celebrations is through an ambitious public Art Trail.

Snowdogs Support Life Kirklees, a first of its kind Art Trail in West Yorkshire is set to launch this September. The free eight-week event will see over 60 uniquely designed Snowdog sculptures popping up in towns and villages right across Kirklees for everyone to enjoy.

The Kirkwood’s flagship fundraising event, the Midnight Memory Walk will also return in July following a two-year absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the charity hope families will join them to make it the biggest walk in the event’s history.

In a nod to The Kirkwood’s past, the charity is also eager for the public to join their movement in this special year, and there are lots of ways you can help.

Michael said: “The official opening of our Inpatient Unit in March 1987 was the culmination of over six years of fundraising by people from across our whole community. 35 years on, The Kirkwood movement is stronger than ever, and we would love for more people to join us. For anyone who is interested in helping to improve the quality of life for local people in their community, it’s really easy to help The Kirkwood Support Life.

“Whether you take part in one of our events, host a Get Together in your local community, join our lottery or offer your time as a volunteer, any way you can support The Kirkwood will help us to be there for anyone in need, wherever and wherever they need us.”

If you would like to find out more about The Kirkwood’s services or want to help in their 35th Anniversary year, visit: thekirkwood.org.uk

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