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13 June 2022

The return of the IJF Beneficiary summer holiday was no small challenge for the charity, explains Head of Operations Debbie Grey, as a group of 86 descended on the seaside town of Islantilla to enjoy the camaraderie, Spanish sun and the singing of indefatigable Jack Berry.

I’ve just been reading some of the thank you cards we’ve already received from some of the beneficiaries and it’s great to know the impact of the holiday – our first since 2018. We thought the whole trip was a massive success, just to see everyone socialising was great, all having a good time. There was such a spread within the group, 15 of whom were over 80 and 12 were wheelchair bound.

It was always going to be a challenge with such a spread of people, and from different regions who competed in different eras, under different codes but there was good mixing. 

One of the many heart-warming stories for me, was to see three of our beneficiaries who worked together 47 years ago back together to reminisce about the old days and they really took care of each other during the holiday.

Course and distance form

The hotel was one that we’ve been to before with beneficiaries and its adaptations and helpful staff ensured that everyone was supported. In fact, there was a group of blind people there when we first arrived and we all merged together when the line dancing started!

I was really moved by some words from one of the cards, this time from one of our group who said that her confidence was very fragile following a long stint in hospital during the winter and that the incentive of being up and running by the holiday made all the difference. She was full of praise for our almoners, physios and all the IJF staff, calling them second-to-none.

Leading from the front

Jack Berry is one of our most recognisable supporters and is Vice President of the Injured Jockeys Fund. The beneficiary holiday was his idea many years ago. It was great to see him back in his element together with his wife Jo and no surprise that he was leading the singing! Former Flat jockey George Baker is now one of the charity’s Trustees and he was another familiar face on the trip and, of course, the arrival of a certain AP McCoy really got the group in full swing.

I was particularly pleased that all the wheelchair beneficiaries were able to enjoy the pool and some even made it into the sea for the first time since their accidents.

Real impact

I think the beneficiary comments say it all in terms of what this holiday means and its impact. I just read another card, this time from the wife of one of our beneficiaries who said that through the holiday she felt her old pre-accident husband had come back and that it meant the world to her.

The camaraderie and seeing everyone have such a good time in the sunshine will be my lasting memories. 

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