Shirley Rolfe and John Thorpe from South London have volunteered hundreds of hours, supporting thousands of people who fundraise for the Stroke Association. So what keeps bringing them back?
'We started volunteering in 2008 with the Thames Bridges Bike Ride,' says Shirley. 'Since then we have taken on a variety of volunteering roles from cheering on runners and riders in sponsored events, to bucket collections and blood pressure checks.'
The couple have both experienced the devastating impact of stroke. Shirley's dad had a stroke when she was only 10 and sadly died from a second stroke in 1981. John's mum passed away after a stroke in 2003.
'We volunteer all over London, from Croydon in the south to Wembley in the north and all points in between.' Shirley tells us. 'We've helped at many cheer points including the Royal Parks Half Marathon in Hyde Park. Seeing the Stroke Association cheer point helps runners feel we're there for them and gives them a boost to help them on to the finish.
'Everyone is friendly, our efforts are always appreciated and we have a lovely community of volunteers from all walks of life. We've enjoyed the opportunity to try something different since taking early retirement, challenging ourselves and meeting loads of new people. We particularly enjoy participating in the receptions following the London Marathon, where we greet the runners and hand out meal vouchers to them and their families. It's inspiring to see how much money some of them manage to raise. Every occasion is different!
'If you're thinking about volunteering, give it a go! There's usually a good mix of old and new faces and everyone is welcome. You also get the satisfaction of knowing you've helped in a very worthwhile cause.'
A day in the life of a cheer point volunteer
'A typical day at a cheer point often means an early start but there's usually a real buzz as we get set up before the event.
The challenge is to find our cheer point - look out for the purple banner - and locate the toilets and cafes. We help to set up the Stroke Association banners and see what we have to get us noticed, such as silly hats (in purple, of course), whistles and clackers.
Once the event starts our role is to spot and count our runners and to give them a big cheer. Making a noise is very therapeutic!
We also look for any celebrity runners - we once got high-fived by John Altman, aka Nick Cotton in EastEnders, who was running for the Stroke Association. Nasty Nick is quite nice really!
We stay until all our runners have gone through, then help to take down the banners and clear away any rubbish.'
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Stroke News magazine
This article is featured in the summer 2022 edition of our magazine, Stroke News. Subscribe to our future editions available in print, on audio CD, or via email.