Last Friday was the evening of the twilight walk organised by the kids’ nursery to raise money for the equipment and home modifications Rachel will need when she comes home. It was a busy day here. Shoe shopping with Joseph and Elodie and my mum in the morning. In the afternoon, my parents visited Rach and then drove to the Loughborough nursery (the finishing line of the walk) so we’d have a car to get home in once we’d finished. I picked them up. After that, it was a flurry of people arriving (friends who were walking with us and Paul’s parents who were coming to celebrate Elodie’s second birthday the following day), making and eating tea, and getting ready to go.
I drove to Sileby, where the walk was starting, with Mum and my friend Ray. Rachel was there. In the car park of the nursery, people were gathering. Friends and strangers. Everyone wearing green. There were balloons, collection tins, bottled water. Someone took a photo of us all, and we set off. Scott pushed Rachel from Sileby to Barrow, where we live. It’s a long, narrow, bumpy road, and it must have been tough. I didn’t walk with them; I was too far back when we started. But we had a photo at each nursery, and when we arrived at Barrow, Rachel looked elated. A little overwhelmed, perhaps, but also buoyed and lifted. We said goodbye to her and went on, to Quorn.
It was getting a bit tough, by then. It had already been a long day, an early start. But I thought of the nursery workers, who’d looked after hordes of children for twelve long hours and then undertaken this. And a lot of them didn’t even know Rachel personally. We had a break at The White Horse in Quorn. Dave, who runs The White Horse Wishing Well charity, had kindly put on free drinks and snacks for us. I grabbed a couple of chocolate brownie squares and stood in the courtyard outside to eat them. Around us, there were people on a typical Friday night out, dressed up and looking glamorous. I wondered what we looked like, to them.
I’d never met Dave, but he found me and took me to one side to introduce himself. He told me that he follows my blog and that a couple of people had approached the charity to ask if they could do something to help my sister. He said they’d like to help, and gave me his card, asking me to get in touch. It nearly tipped me over the edge, on that night of all nights. I could have wept over the kindness of strangers.
Throughout the walk, the brave ones among us went into every pub we passed to collect money. They approached people who were enjoying their Friday nights, perhaps already a little drunk, and told them the story of my sister, and how we were trying to bring her home. I found out the next day that over £400 was raised that way.
Everyone was tired when we got to Loughborough. The nursery had laid on prosecco and cookies and ice lollies. I went inside and used one of the tiny kids’ toilets, the ache in my legs setting in. Mum and I and a couple of my friends stuck it out until everyone else had left, not quite sure how to thank them, and then we made our way home.
As of today, the total raised online stands at £2,430. That includes 60p that Joseph’s best friend gave me from his money box. I know I’m speaking on behalf of my entire family when I say how thankful and humbled we are. It feels like every step we took on Friday has brought us one step closer to having Rachel at home, where she belongs.