THE future of a service for terminally-ill local people has been guaranteed thanks to Gazette readers.

Our ‘Driving Hospice Care’ campaign, to buy 4x4s for a team of nurses, this week smashed through its fundraising target – enabling the team to stay on the road caring for those who have chosen to die at home.

Since the appeal was launched six weeks ago, to raise £36,800 for two Kia Sportage cars, hundreds of local people have sent in amounts ranging from £5 to £1,000.

And this week, thanks to a pair of donors who have given an astonishing £30,000 between them, the fund now stands at £41,203.92.

“We just can’t believe it,” said staff nurse Denise Chambers, who has been part of the team since it began nine years ago.

“The generosity of everybody who has donated has just been overwhelming.

“We feel like ‘thank you’ just isn’t enough – it doesn’t do justice to how grateful we are to everyone who has given something.”

The 12-strong team of nurses, who work for north Lancashire-based St John’s Hospice, operate across South Lakeland, north Lancashire and parts of north Yorkshire. They spend their days battling all weathers and terrains to reach patients in the final stages of life, offering medical and psychological support to them and their families – but until now have only had access to a fleet of old, unreliable cars prone to breaking down.

“Now we will be able to travel to patients without the worry of the car leaving us stranded,” continued Nurse Chambers.

“The transport will be the least of our concerns, which is how it should be.”

A £10,000 grant from Lakeland Disability Support was confirmed last week, taking the fundraising total to around £20,000.

Then, to the delight of the nurses, another £20,000 was pledged by London journalist, Mira Bar-Hillel, who heard about the campaign through Ambleside friends, Linda and Nigel Kingdon.

Miss Bar-Hillel, from Wimbledon, said she had been looking for ‘local’ causes to donate to for some time.

“I was very fortunate with an investment and I wanted to give to charities and causes where I could see that it had really helped people,” she explained.

“I’m delighted that I’ve helped the nurses get their 4x4s.” Mrs Kingdon sent Miss Bar-Hillel an article about the campaign. “Mira has been here several times and I think has been quite taken with South Lakeland,” said the former head teacher.

“She asked me if I knew any causes she could donate to and I told her about Driving Hospice Care. It all seems to have fallen into place.”

The Hospice at Home nurses make around 5,000 home visits annually. They work 365 days of the year between 7am and 10pm, working in conjunction with with district nurses and GPs.

The new cars will enable them to visit patients as far north as Grasmere – no matter how severe the winter.

Catherine Butterworth, head of fundraising at the hospice, said she and colleagues have been ‘overwhelmed’.

“We were so pleased when we got confirmation from the trust that they were going to give us £10,000, which meant we had enough for one car,” she said.

“Then we heard Mira was going to give another £20,000 and the nurses were speechless.

“Every donation has got us to this point. To be able to raise this money in just a few weeks is amazing and we have to thank the Gazette and its readers for their generosity.”

The cars are to be sold by Windermere’s Rayrigg Motors at a reduced cost of £18,400 each. Extra money raised will go towards fuel and maintenance.