Cheers – virtual cocktail hour with piano tunes raises £3,775 for hospice

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Jonathan and Paula Willsmore.

Super supporters have hit all the right notes with YouTube performances playing beautiful piano tunes and raised £3,775 for a local hospice.

Husband and wife Jonathan and Paula Willsmore, from Marston Moretaine in Bedfordshire, were inspired to support Sue Ryder St John’s Hospice after staff cared for their close friend Peter Freeman.

The hospice’s Palliative Care Hub team helped to look after Peter in the last few weeks of his life in May 2019.

When the Coronavirus pandemic first struck back in 2020, Jonathan and Paula wanted to help by fundraising in Peter’s memory.

They came up with the creative idea of entertaining people during lockdown with ‘Jonathan’s Cocktail 5 Minutes’ – which saw talented piano player Jonathan performing several relaxing piano tunes at cocktail hour and streaming them on YouTube.

The virtual performances, which saw people guessing which pieces of music Jonathan was playing, were a fitting tribute to keen musician Peter and raised more than £2,450.

The pair then reprised their virtual fundraiser in December to support the Moggerhanger hospice and to remember another good friend who had recently been cared for by hospice staff.  

Jonathan released a new video on YouTube each evening running up to Christmas, so people could enjoy a cocktail while listening to their favourite festive songs performed on the piano.

They raised another £1,325 – bringing their fundraising total to an impressive £3,775.

“Our dear friend Peter spent his last weeks with us in 2019, with the support of the Sue Ryder St John’s Palliative Care Hub,” said Jonathan.

“It was Peter’s wish to remain with us at home during his final few weeks. The staff were totally amazing and came to care for him several times a day. Without their help, we couldn’t have done it and Peter couldn’t have stayed here for his final days.

“We wanted to support the hospice by raising some much-needed funds. I like playing the piano and enjoy easy-listening music and songs from the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s. 

“With the support of our lovely friend Emma, who helped with managing our YouTube channel, video editing, graphics and setting up our Just Giving page, I started performing a couple of tunes each evening during lockdown and streaming them on YouTube. The idea was that people could sit down with a cocktail, enjoy some tunes and guess what they might be.

“The Sue Ryder St John’s Palliative Care Hub is a terrific service and we really want to help the team to keep it going. Thank you to everyone who has supported us and thank you to Emma – we would not have been able to do this without you.”

Ellie Burke, Community Fundraiser at Sue Ryder St John’s Hospice, said: “Thank you so much to Jonathan, Paula and Emma for your invaluable support. We love the piano performances and think they are a perfect tribute. The fantastic funds you have raised for our hospice will help us to continue to provide our compassionate palliative care and support and be there when it matters for local people.”

The funds raised could not come at a more crucial time for Sue Ryder, after it was forced to launch a second urgent fundraising campaign at the end of 2020 in response to the devastating impact the Coronavirus pandemic is having on its funding.

With a further national lockdown announced earlier this month, the charity’s struggle continues with fundraising events remaining cancelled and Sue Ryder’s charity shops having to close their doors once again.

For more information and to donate to the urgent fundraising campaign visit www.sueryder.org/winterappeal20

You can find and listen to ‘Jonathan’s Cocktail 5 Minutes’ here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCIQpYDgwmKy81wnbo_Ll_lg

You can support Jonathan’s latest festive virtual fundraiser here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/thecocktailchristmasspecial  

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