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Find out why Michelle started Volunteering

Since that night I have volunteered twice more. I get a massive buzz doing it and I feel like I am actually doing something to help.

“Barbara was a longtime friend of my mother’s. They worked in the same industry, were loud and confident women in a male-dominated world and they both liked a good laugh. Of course, they were going to be friends. They met at conferences and because they lived not too far away, they were always in touch. My mum had mentioned a few times that Barb was sick and I had squirrelled it away in my brain somewhere. It didn’t come to the front of it until I caught my mother in a rare vulnerable moment, sobbing. 

Barbs had breast cancer. And it had spread. The outlook was poor and the talk had moved from treatment to end of life care. My mum, who had been visiting her regularly and keeping in touch every day, was totally crestfallen. When she mentioned that Barbs wanted to get married to her long-term partner before things got any worse, I instantly offered to make cakes for their celebration. I made the most beautiful Sunflower cupcakes and sent them along to the wedding. They had an amazing day and the pictures captured how beautiful and full of vibrant energy Barbs was. 

Not long after, I went to visit her in her hospice. Mostly because she had been given a new iPhone and she couldn’t work it out but also because she wanted to thank me in person for the cakes. The hospice was an amazing space. It felt like home, despite the pain and sadness that inevitably comes with it. I walked into the room to find my mum in bed with Barbs, flicking through a copy of Hello and laughing. We spent a really lovely afternoon together, the three of us giggling and eating lots of cake I had brought. As I left I made sure her new phone had my number in it and mine the same. Over the next few weeks, we exchanged loads of messages. Some of them funny. Some of the bittersweet. All of them treasured by me. 

Kicking Cancer’s Butt

At that point, I decided that I wanted to do something to help. I started by asking for donations to Cancer Research that year for my 30th Birthday instead of gifts. It was a small gesture but I liked that it involved other people. My friends were very generous and I raised £200. 

But the biggest thing and one of my ongoing commitments were The MoonWalk London. I remember watching a documentary starring Victoria Wood, talking about taking part in The MoonWalk for Walk the Walk. It’s a Marathon (and half marathon) where the competitors power walk through London overnight. Oh, and they wear nothing on top except highly decorated bras. I decided that I would take part and wear the most spangly Bra I could. My amazing husband also decided to join me, as did two colleagues of mine. We started to train and raise sponsorship money rapidly. 

And then I got injured. 4 weeks before the walk I damaged my shoulder and was recommended by the Doctor not to take part. I was absolutely devastated. I felt like I had let down my husband, team and most importantly Barbs. I contacted Walk the Walk to withdraw my entry and they asked me if I would consider volunteering on the night instead? It was a question that would change my life. I figured ‘Why Not?’ and it meant I could be at the finish line when my team crossed over. 

Doing the MoonWalk

Arriving in London amongst a sea of enthusiastic (and nervous) walkers was crazy! There were people still sewing sequins onto their bra’s and others eating mountains of Pasta. I said goodbye to my team and was swiftly placed on a school coach full of other volunteers. All of us were there for differing reasons. I soon became friends with a couple who lost their daughter to cancer 5 years before and always volunteered. Before I knew it I was dropped off for my role. I was to be a route marshal. My main job was the cheer on the walkers, make sure everyone was safe and let the general public know what was happening. I was placed in a fairly inconspicuous place….outside the gates of Buckingham Palace. Very quickly, the competitors started to walk towards me.

It’s a sight I will always treasure. Thousands of women (and men) marching past Buckingham Palace in their gorgeous bra’s. Some of them were wearing tributes to those they were walking for. Some had a gaggle of friends around them singing songs. I won’t lie, I cried.

I stood in the middle of the road, my arms open wide and shouted ‘This way my lovelies, make sure you wave hello to Queeny as you walk by’. A chorus of voices shouted Hello back at me. I was in total admiration of every single one of them. My husband then suddenly appeared and kissed me, me having to explain to the cat calling women that he was mine and it was fine. Another lady jumped out of the crowd and wanted a picture taken with me. She said I was the best volunteer she has seen that year and wanted to commemorate it. After the event, she found me on social media and we’ve become friends since! 

I watched every single one of them walk off down the Mall (the road outside Buckingham Palace) and I waited until the next morning in the same spot, cheering them all home. Some of them were very surprised I was still there. Most of all my husband who reappeared 6 hours after I sent him off. I walked the final mile back to base camp with him (not wise after 7 hours standing in the cold May weather) and we crossed the finish line together. 

Thunderbolt Moment

Since that night I have volunteered twice more. I get a massive buzz doing it and I feel like I am actually doing something to help. On my last moonwalk, I was lucky enough to hand out the medals at the finish line. I gave out medals and hugs (and the occasional kiss to some lucky people), all with tears in my eyes and a smile on my face.

One very emotional man came towards me and fell into my arms, the exhaustion of the walk and the emotion of the event finally getting to him. He looked me in the eyes and said ‘That was for my sister….I….I can’t say anything more,’. I wiped away my own tears and told him ‘She would be so very proud of you, you are an amazing man. What was her name?’ ‘Barbara’ he said.

A thunderbolt hit me through the heart. I smiled and said ‘Barbara’s are the best kinda people,’ and gave him his medal. We held each other for a long time before we let each other go. I hope that I helped him that day. I know he helped me.

Barb’s Legacy

I know it sounds really trite, but people can change the world. Every single person involved with raising money for any kind of cancer is helping to get rid of it or treat it. For all the Barbaras out there, and all of those they leave behind, if you are interested in supporting Walk the Walk or even taking part next year, then please visit their website at www.walkthewalk.org” 

Love Michelle

So, if like Michelle, you are unable to Walk the Walk with us, Volunteering is an equally important role at our MoonWalks and without these amazing and selfless volunteers, our iconic events would not happen!

Join our incredible Walk the Walk Volunteer Team now!

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