doc

THREE siblings 'overwhelmed' by the love and support of friends, the local community and strangers put their best foot forward this weekend in aid of Sobell House Hospice.

Lucy Aston, Jennah Brain and Carl Aston braved a 10-mile hike - with the occasional downpour - on Saturday in memory of mother Julie Jones, who died at the Oxford hospice last November.

Along with a group of friends the trio walked the length of the Thames from Abingdon bridge to Oxford Rail Station, the culmination of months of fundraising efforts for the hospice.

Mrs Brain, 31, said: "It was absolutely exhausting, not to mention we got soaked. It was hard work, but I'm very glad I did it."

On November 22 last year Miss Jones, who worked as a cleaner at the John Radcliffe Hospital for 25 years, passed away under the care of specialist nurses at Sobell House.

The 49-year-old had been the victim of a head-on car crash near her Wheatley home, which shattered her pelvis and left her unable to attend the chemotherapy she needed for bowel cancer.

In her final days, her children said, staff at Sobell House had attended to her every need.

Mrs Brain said: "She was unsure about going there but they were absolutely brilliant. They helped her settle in and in the end she didn't want to leave."

Initially the family set themselves a fundraising target of £1,000 for the hospice, which offers palliative and end-of-life care to hundreds of people facing life-limiting illnesses every year, also supporting families through social workers and bereavement counselling.

But between a charity auction in Wheatley with a raffle and live band, and the river walk on Saturday, the total the group have raised is now more than £3,000.

Miss Aston, 27,of Greater Leys, said: "We are overwhelmed. It's loads of money. We thought £1,000 would push it, we have smashed it.

"The fact that there are so many people supporting us, even strangers, is an eye-opener. So many people are behind us."

A poignant moment was shared at Iffley Lock, one of Miss Jones's favourite spots along the river.

The family also extended their heartfelt thanks to businesses in Wheatley and firms that donated prizes for their auction, including vouchers for Blenheim Palace and the Cotswold Wildlife Park.

Discussions have already started over whether to hold the 'Oxford River Walk' annually in memory of Miss Jones.

Mr Aston, 24, said: "We haven't cancelled anything from the future but at the moment we're not planning anything."

It costs £400 a day to care for a patient on the ward at Sobell House, which is based at the Churchill Hospital in Headington.

The hospice is also currently trying to raise £4m for a new dementia-friendly clinic and annexe.

To support the family's ongoing appeal for Sobell House in memory of Miss Jones visit justgiving.com/fundraising/lucy-aston1