It’s National #VolunteersWeek. We are lucky enough to have more than 250 volunteers and Willow champions across the UK. Whether you give time weekly or once or twice a year, the difference you make is simply invaluable! Here we have our incredible volunteer Pete's story to why he volunteers as part of the Willow family. 

I watched Bob Wilson’s first and last games at Highbury so as an avid Gooner I first became aware of Willow when Bob and his wife Megs started getting coverage in the Arsenal programme and with pitchside appearances.

Move on about 14 years and my daughter’s best friend, Hannah Gray, started working in the Community team at Willow HQ. On retirement I had thought about doing some charity work but I never felt any empathy with other, often national, charities. Suddenly the doors and my eyes opened. Here was a locally based but national charity, small enough for me to make a significant and appreciated contribution, and a whole host of welcoming staff and existing volunteers.

It wasn’t long before my wife, Jan, joined me to help out at Folk by the Oak, providing games for children and as soon as Willow opened its shop in Welwyn Garden she was in like a flash to help on the till and started making cards, gift tags, key rings and bracelets to sell in the shop. Willow is infectious – our daughter Clare, although living in Leeds, raised thousands by running the London Marathon.

I help out in the office and at a variety of external fundraisers like dinners, endurance events and golf days. It always amazes me how people respond to opportunities to give or raise money once they hear what Special Days are and what they mean to those seriously ill young adults who benefit.

The dedication of staff and volunteers is astonishing but what is the most inspiring aspect of volunteering for Willow? For me, and without doubt, it is hearing the stories of those who have had Special Days. To talk to them and hear them speak, sometimes in front of thousands of people, about what their Special Days meant to them and their families in the darkest times of their lives has made hair stand on end and brought tears to eyes (including mine).

Over the last 5 or 6 years I’ve learned a lot about Willow, what it does, and why staff and volunteers give so much time and effort to make Special Days possible for seriously ill young adults and their families. I recommend that you read Meg’s book, “Anna’s Legacy”, and you will understand why.

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