A much-loved Luton charity is making a huge donation to help terminally-ill patients as it says goodbye after 10 years.
The Karen Trust, established in 2009, is closing down after a decade of helping poorly residents to spend quality time with their loved ones on a special day out or holiday.
The charity was founded by Luton man Joseph Singh in memory of his sister, Karen, who died from a brain tumour aged just 39, with Joe inspired to help other families in a similar situation.
However, after 10 years, The Karen Trust team feels it is time to move on. To say farewell, it made a final donation of £111,939 to Keech Hospice Careon Tuesday (October 22), while patrons Ian Wright, Mick Harford, and Karen’s partner at the time of her death, Mitchell Thomas, watched on.
Joseph, 59, said: “I was taking Karen to the consultants in London and on the way I started talking about how I wanted to set up a charity in her name, and she agreed, saying ‘do it’.
“The team organised runs, cycles, and black tie balls to raise money, and we’ve helped over 100 families. There were also many individuals who raised funds for us outside of our managed events.
“One trip that pops into my mind is an old couple who wanted to go to Brighton and have fish and chips together, because it is where they got married. We have even paid for someone’s wedding.
“It was time with the family together. People have to go through so many horrible things – radiotherapy, chemotherapy – this got them out of it.”
He added: “In a way it makes you feel like Karen is still around; for 10 years people have been mentioning her name. You feel you are keeping her alive and in people’s minds.”
Karen passed away on July 17, 2009 after being diagnosed 15 months earlier. Joseph even travelled to America to see if a top surgeon could offer alternative treatment, but there was “no going back”.
Karen left behind her partner, Mitchell, and her three children, Saule, Aruna, and Lily-Rose, who are now 29, 30, and 12 respectively.
The family is pleased with all The Karen Trust has achieved - £250,000 raised over 10 years - and think Karen would be proud, too.
Joseph said: “To be honest, Karen held it together better than me and Mitchell and her friends. She took it well, she was very strong minded. It’s amazing how people deal with it and have the strength to understand what’s going on.
“She was devastated more because of that fact that she was leaving her children, and she wouldn’t be able to see her baby, Lily-Rose grow up.”
When Joseph began The Karen Trust, some of Karen’s friends and family joined the charity, and Joseph would like to thank everyone who has helped over the years, and give a mention to its core members who have been there for 10 years (including Joseph): Marcia Berry, Phyllis Rowley, Nicki Rowley, Mary Gill, Annette White, Andrea Wright, and Laura Swaine.
He would also like to thank its patrons, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Ian Wright, Wayne Bridge, Mick Harford, Billy Schwer, and Jermain Defoe, as well as companies who supported them.
Reflecting on ten years and the closure, Joseph said: “When Karen was diagnosed, one in four people would get cancer during their lifetime. Now it’s one in two. I think she would be proud to think that we help people in her name.
“We took Karen to the South of France when she was ill, but other people can’t afford to do that. After she died, the charity helped countless people with their last wishes.
“However, I think there comes a point where people are getting on with their lives, doing their own thing. But we’ll still be around [as individuals] to support other charities.
“It’s a serious subject matter but I think you have to have fun, and we did.”
The Karen Trust is making a final donation to Keech Hospice Care, as some of the residents it previously helped were receiving treatment there.
Joseph and the team would also like to say a heartfelt thank you to the Luton community for its loyal support over the last decade.
A Keech Hospice Care spokeswoman, said: “We are enormously grateful to The Karen’s Trust for supporting the work of our hospice.
“These funds have already been put to great use, creating a modern peaceful quiet room at the hospice.
“This room will be used by patients, families and carers, both alone for reflection and with staff to support with one-to-one sessions or group activity. “Further work is underway in other areas, updating rooms and building a retreat-like experience for patients and their families.
“In the summer, patients will be able to sit in the garden and enjoy a bespoke water feature created to help provide a sanctuary in the fresh air.
“The staff at Keech Hospice Care will be remembering Karen with a picture in the quiet room, which includes words directly from The Karen Trust – ‘Don’t count the years, count the memories’.”