When Carol Lingard jumped on board as a volunteer fundraiser for Mary Potter Hospice in Wellington 25 years ago, she had no idea her only son would pass away in the terminal care facility four years later.
Raumati Beach-based Carol and her husband Rod, who are both now retired, were one of the around 900 families to use Mary Potter Hospice each year.
Their son Nick, who sadly passed away at 22 years old, spent his last days at the in-patient unit in Newtown, Wellington.
"A lot of people think the hospice is specifically for cancer and it's not; it's for anybody in their final 12 to 18 months of living, who needs palliative care," Rod says.
"Our son had Duchennes Muscular Dystrophy, which is progressive.
"He got weaker and weaker until basically, he was bedridden for the last 12 months of his life."
Nick was just 4 when he was diagnosed with the debilitating neurological condition.
"He went right through the main school system and had some great mates, who pushed him in a wheelchair," recalls Carol, who raised Nick and his sister Laura in Whitby.
"I was always getting calls from the principal saying, 'They've had another accident. They've whipped Nick around the side of the building and the wheelchair managed to pull off the downpipe.' The boys thought it was hilarious!"
Rod also has fond memories of their son's adventures.
"One time he was about 12 and came back absolutely soaked because he'd free-wheeled down to the lake near our house with his mates, and they had to fish him out," he grins.
"The first time he got his electric wheelchair, Nick thought it was a four-wheel drive and got stuck in mud. He was just like any other boy."
As Nick's condition worsened in his early 20s, he began receiving care from nurses at Mary Potter Hospice, spending a weekend every six weeks at the Wellington in-patient unit.
"When you're looking after a loved one during the end stages of their life, you get a weekend of respite care paid for by the government," Carol explains.
"He went in one weekend and as can happen in life, sometimes things are taken out of your control.
"We didn't realise he wouldn't come home, and he died there."
Now, in honour of their dear late son, the couple are dedicated volunteers for Mary Potter Hospice in Paraparaumu.
Two years after his death, Carol and Rod moved to Kāpiti.
As part of the charity's fundraising committee, the pair help with the annual Kapiti Coast Strawberry Festival, which takes place this Saturday, November 21, from 9.30am to 3pm at Kāpiti Primary School.
"The Strawberry Festival has been running for 14 years and all profits go to Mary Potter Hospice," Carol says.
"It's a fun day for the family with strawberries and ice-cream, bouncy castles and lots of activities.
"Along with our eight Hospice shops and the annual street appeal, any proceeds help keep it running after 80 years."
Currently, Mary Potter Hospice needs to raise around $7 million a year to operate.
"It costs about $15 million a year and the government funds 45 to 50 per cent of that," says Rod, who has been a driver for the hospice the past 15 years, taking patients to and from the supportive Kāpiti day unit.
"This is a service that's very well used, and totally free to everyone.
"The nurses and professionals are very caring and it shows through in everything that they do, for every patient and family."
Cloe Willetts / EQ Storytelling