The Order of St John is a splendid organisation, which is a modern continuation of the work of the ancient Hospitallers of St John, who founded a Hospital in Jerusalem in the Eleventh Century. In the United Kingdom we know them for providing voluntary services via the St John Ambulance, but they also provide extensive services via the St John of Jerusalem Eye Hospital Group to various people in Israel and Palestine regardless of race, creed or ability to pay. This includes various outreach services to people who would otherwise go or remain blind or partially sighted. In order to continue with this good work they need substantial donations, especially since the devaluation of the pound has added A MILLION POUNDS to the amount they must raise EACH YEAR to allow their services to operate.
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I had planned to do a series of personal challenges for charity sometime ago, but had been delayed by various factors including suffering from my own fairly serious eye problems in 2014 before having an accident, which left me with two broken arms and just when I thought all was going well...
at the end of April 2015, I was admitted to hospital with a blood clot running the length of my right leg, which had almost filled both lungs. My lungs together with the right side of my heart were failing and my leg was agonal. The doctors and nurses could not believe how cheerful I was even when I was informed by two of them that they had not seen a scan this bad in years. I absorbed this information and anticipated that I probably had a fifty percent chance of leaving the hospital. I have since been informed by my consultant that I was being wildly optimistic and that they thought my chances were considerably lower than this. On my third night in hospital I was fading, but my then fiancee (now wife) pushed for a missed dose of the lifesaving drug I had been put on and I eventually pulled through (I should add that the majority of the nurses and doctors were superb and my outpatient team at Haematology in Guys & St Thomas's are truly excellent and very caring).
I am still recovering, working on my lung strength, fitness levels, coping with permanent damage to the leg and general energy level. In order to help motivate myself to go forward, and do some good at the same time, I am setting a series of physical and endurance challenges in aid of charity.
They are to be based on the acts of heroes of old: Thor, the Norse God of Strength and Thunder, Hercules, the Demi-God of Greek mythology, and Samson, the Jewish Hero from the Book of Judges. Details of each challenge will follow in due course (and any sensible suggestions for challenges will be gratefully received).
The first step of this was a soft start via a kind of reversal of Movember and Decembeard whereby I invited people, if they were able to spare the funds, to donate money voting for either Samson or Delilah with the total for each being counted on Maundy Thursday (Thursday 13th April 2017). If Samson won I would keep my beard and longer hair until Whitsunday (4th June 2017). If Delilah won, I had to remove my facial hair and return to short hair. In the unlikely event that £1,000 were raised in the name of Samson, I would have kept my longer hair and beard growing until the first Sunday of Advent (3rd December 2017)!
Sadly (from my perspective - my wife was delighted!!) Delilah won and I am now somewhat less hirsute as you will see from the pictures in the update section. However I am now training to get my fitness and general energy levels up. I have signed up to do the London Marathon in 2018 if I am successful in the October ballot. In the meantime I have completed a 5K in Regents Park on Sunday 25th June, a 10K on Sunday 23rd July in the same location and now the Great Scottish Run Half Marathon in Glasgow on Sunday 1st October 2017. The next "running" challenges I have signed up to are the London Marathon on Sunday 22nd April 2019. Interestingly, having not received a place via the ballot, and having assumed there were no charity places since friends had heard about theirs... I signed up to the Stirling Marathon a week later! And... since I had put in for a place in the Brighton Ballot... I now find I have a place in that Marathon the week before London! Three in three weeks! I have also started the hundred press-up challenge on top of my regular training, learnt to cycle thanks to my friends, Honey, Russ and Michael and am looking at more things to work on...
At the moment these are just training challenges. In due course there will be at least Twelve Formal Challenges roughly around the theme of the Labours of Hercules (or Heracles), which are generally grouped together as (my initial ideas are next to them):
First Labour: (Slaying) the Nemean Lion - Strength Challenge
Second Labour: (Slaying) the Lernaean Hydra - Four Elements Challenge
Third Labour: (Catching) the Erymathean Boar - Running Challenge
Fourth Labour: (Catching) the Ceryneian Hind - Running and/or Archery Challenge
Fifth Labour: Cleaning the Stables of King Eurystheus
Sixth Labour: the Stymphalian Birds
Seventh Labour: Taming the Cretan Bull
Eighth Labour: Capturing the Mares of Diomades
Ninth Labour: (Retrieving) the Belt of Hippolyta
Tenth Labour: (Obtaining) the Cattle of Geryon
Eleventh Labour: (Stealing) the Apples of Hesperides
Twelfth Labour: Capturing Cerberus (the three-headed Hound of Hades)
These will be followed by three Impossible Challenges echoing those of Thor issued by the Giant King, which were:
One: Drinking from the Horn connected to the Ocean - Drinking Challenge
Two: Lifting the World Serpent - Strength Challenge (I am particularly thinking of the Press-Up Challenge from the Travis Video for Turn...see https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=v3tb-m0Ez4I...)
Three: Wrestling with Time Itself - Wrestling or Time Challenge.
Please do feel free to suggest specifics.
More details of this appeal will follow.
My first fundraising target was one thousand pounds, which has now been achieved thanks to the generosity of my supporters. It was suggested to me that raising sufficient funds for the Hospital to sponsor a Swift on the Tree of Hope in the Hospital's Muristan Peace Garden would be a good second target. More details may be found here: https://st-john-of-jerusalem-eye-hospital-group.myshopify.com/products/sponsor-a-swift-in-old-city-of-jerusalem Obviously that is symbolic and the funds raised go to the Hospital's good work. If I can surpass this figure before I complete my challenges I will look into a specific item the hospital needs beyond that figure and change the target accordingly.
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