Our latest project was to lay a new driveway for Pete – who was left with profound hypoxic brain damage brought on by a heart attack – so that he can get out of the house in his wheelchair.
The driveway of the home of Gordon Hart – who is known by all as Pete – was rutted and potholed. This meant that it was a struggle for his partner of 32 years, Sam Horley, to get him out of the house, as his wheelchair frequently became stuck – meaning he was often late or missed vital rehabilitation sessions.
Sam put out a plea to BoB – which completes practical projects to help members of the UK construction industry who are battling illness or injury – and nearly 50 tradespeople answered the call.
When the charity completed the project, Sam said she was overwhelmed as volunteers, family and well-wishers came out in force to see the finished front driveway, side path and rear access.
“Band of Builders has gone above and beyond what we were hoping for – this will be life-changing for Pete, as it means I can get him out of the house much easier,” said Sam.
“He was a bricklayer for more than 30 years, so he loves being outdoors. The hard work of everyone who volunteered on this project means we can get him outside to his happy place.”
Sam told BBC Radio Sussex: “Thank you is not enough – we are just so grateful, especially as most of the volunteers didn’t know Pete.”
The 55-year-old former bricklayer was left with a profound physical disability after his heart attack in April 2020 and needs round-the-clock care because he cannot use his arms, hands and legs. He also suffers from epilepsy, diabetes and cortical blindness. He has carers in four times a day to help Sam, who gave up a 30-year career in the NHS to care for him and is overseeing his rehabilitation.
Following the heart attack, the father of two girls was on a ventilator in intensive care for nearly three months and then started to show signs of cognitive recovery and was moved to a neurological rehabilitation hospital, where he stayed for a further five months.
Sam had an almighty battle to be able to get Pete home because he has complex needs. She secured funding from the local authority to build an extension and remodel the downstairs of their home to create a bedroom and bathroom for him.
However, the funding didn’t include a new driveway, so Band of Builders stepped in to create a bigger, wheelchair-friendly one with parking spaces for Pete’s carers. The volunteers also put down new paving at the side and rear of the house.
This was the 28th project that the charity has completed since it was founded in 2016 – enlisting volunteer groundworkers, landscapers, carpenters, electricians and roofers from its community of nearly 50,000 tradespeople and contractors.
Norfolk-based builder Tony Everett – a veteran of six Band of Builders projects – was the project lead on this one. He said that volunteers came from as far afield as Dublin and Norfolk to work on the project – some volunteering for a few days and a core group for the duration.
He said: “This was a very straightforward project but will have a hugely beneficial impact on Pete’s quality of life because it will mean that Sam and his girls can take him out for walks and out and about.”
Pete’s project was sponsored by DEWALT, the market-leading manufacturer of premium power tools, accessories, landscaping products, and anchors and fixings, which provide an all-in-one total jobsite solution. The project also attracted support from local businesses, which donated materials for the project and refreshments for the volunteers.
Anyone who is interested is encouraged to find out more about the charity on its Facebook page: www.facebook.com/bandofbuilders/.
NOTES TO EDITORS
ABOUT BAND OF BUILDERS
Band of Builders was founded in 2016 when, upon hearing that his friend Keith Ellick was diagnosed with terminal cancer, Lincolnshire landscaper Addam Smith wanted to do something to make his mate’s life a little bit easier. A plan to landscape his garden won the support of his fellow tradespeople and saw the project grow into a full-scale renovation of Keith’s house, carried out by volunteers from across the country.
It has grown to become a registered charity (charity number 1182283) that completes practical projects to help members of the UK construction industry who are battling illness or injury. For each project, volunteers come together to help their fellow tradespeople through renovations or repairs that make a real difference to their lives.
Recent projects have included:
● Building a ground-floor extension so that Howard Holden could go back to his Oswaldtwistle home after nearly two years in a rehabilitation centre in Leeds, after he was left with severe brain damage after suffering heart failure.
● An outside space was built for Tess Robison from South Shields to help as she recuperates from chemotherapy after she hit the national news headlines after her dog alerted her to ovarian cancer.
● The first project in Northern Ireland was building a new sunroom for former bricklayer Kevin McGowan, who has been bed-bound for a decade because of a rare neurological disorder, which means he requires round-the-clock care.
● Completely reconfiguring the ground floor of the home of plasterer Mark’s partner Cher Little, who was left relying on a wheelchair after having her legs amputated.
● Revamping the home of chartered surveyor Rob Lamb in Solihull to make it safe and accessible after he was left paralysed by a fall.
Band of Builders also organises the Big Brew, an annual event to raise awareness of the mental health crisis in the construction industry – where the suicide rate is estimated to be as high as two people every day. UK construction workers are also nearly three times as likely to die by suicide than their counterparts in other industries.
For more information on how to become a member or how to apply for help from Band of Builders, visit www.bandofbuilders.org.
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