A Gloucester woman preparing to walk Starlight Hike – Cheltenham in memory of her father is sharing her story in the hope of inspiring others to join the charity event, even if they’ve not experienced the care of Sue Ryder.

Sophia Haq is 51 and works in financial services, and first heard about the charity event from one of her colleagues who volunteers at Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice.

“I like doing voluntary work and I regularly give to international charities, cancer charities and Muslim charities, but I really feel it is important to support charities that are local too,” shares Sophia.

“When I heard about Starlight Hike – Cheltenham in support of our local hospice I thought it was something I could do as it’s a hike not a run and the idea of running really freaks me out! The event looked something fun to do in the evening and I thought there would be great camaraderie coming together with others.”

However, when Sophia sat down to complete her entry online, the event took on a more personal meaning.

“I haven’t had anyone cared for by Sue Ryder, but as I read about the event I saw people were encouraged to walk in memory of loved ones to help them grieve, and that’s when it struck me. I only lost my Dad a year ago and I am still going through the grieving process myself. It was then I knew I wanted to do this in memory of Dad – and it is such a wonderful idea.”

“I completed the entry form and one of the questions asked if you were walking in memory of someone special. As I typed I remembered Dad and the words poured from my heart.”

Sophia wrote “I am walking in memory of my father, Ehsan ul Haq. My father was a most humble, kind and helpful man having worked in immigration and community relations for 50 years.

“At age 81 he was still fighting to work – not that he needed the money – but to be of service to people, to enhance their lives.  He came here in the 60s as an immigrant from Pakistan to study accountancy bypassing an offer to attend Harvard to study law. He made a great life for us materially but most importantly his legacy I find after his passing is his honourable intent to better others’ lives, how positive he made people feel, his sincerity in all his conduct and the respect he commanded from all who knew him.

“This and his calm sensibility is what I truly miss and can only honour him by emulating those qualities where I can, helping others. He always said help anyone you can who needs it.”

Echoing her father’s words, Sophia hopes that by taking part in Starlight Hike – Cheltenham she’ll help others by raising funds so Sue Ryder can give people the expert care they need so their final days can be full of love.

“Dad has left a huge void in our lives,” Sophia adds. “Dad could just put his hand on my hand or on my shoulder and I immediately felt comforted. There is a saying that no one will remember what you did, but they will remember how you made them feel. And with Dad that is so true. After his death so many people he came into contact with got in touch – from judges to clients – to tell us how he helped them and how committed he was.”

As Sophia walks 10km through Cheltenham next month, she will have her Dad in her heart.

“I think Dad would be touched I am walking for him, but he was such a practical man I think he would also say ‘that’s really good exercise for you’ before asking me what time I will be home as it is a night-time walk!”

 “I have always been a Muslim. I pray five times a day and during our last prayer at night I look towards heaven and see the stars. I know Dad is up there with loved ones. It is my belief that I will meet him again one day. When I walk Starlight Hike I will look up to the stars and remember him.”

Starlight Hike – Cheltenham, sponsored by Capita, takes place on Saturday 16th October, giving walkers the opportunity to come together under the stars with family and friends and celebrate the lives of loved ones.

Starting and finishing at St Edward’s Preparatory School, Charlton Kings, walkers will warm up with a fun Clubbercise session before setting out on a 10k walk around Cheltenham.

Walkers will have the opportunity to walk through the tranquil grounds of Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice, softly lit with festoon lights, and place a star in memory of those special to them.

The money raised by taking part in Starlight Hike – Cheltenham will go towards Sue Ryder’s vital palliative, neurological and bereavement support.

Everyone is warmly welcome to take part, whether they’ve been touched by the care of Sue Ryder or not. To sign up visit www.sueryder.org/hikecheltenham

You can contact the Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice fundraising team with any queries by emailing leckhampton.events@sueryder.org or calling 01242 395450.

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