When Ron Harbron makes a promise, he keeps it.
So when he agreed to his dying wife’s last request for him to take over running a stroke support group set up by a fellow cancer patient at Butterwick Hospice, there was never any doubt he would be as good as his word.
Now, nine years later, Happy Talk Stroke Group is celebrating its 25th birthday (on Wednesday July 24) – and inspirational Ron is still putting on weekly sessions to help dozens of Stockton families who have gone through the agony of seeing a loved one suffer the devastation of a stroke.
“My wife, Ann had cancer and was in the same room at Butterwick Hospice as Pat Medicott, the lady who ran Happy Talk before me,” explained retired electrical engineer Ron, who is 79.
“Her worst fear was that Happy Talk would fail when she was no longer there. So Ann, in her wisdom, said, ‘You can do it, Ron!’
“She knew she didn’t have long and she died a few months later. I’ve run it ever since and we’ve gone from strength to strength, growing from about five people to 30.
“I hadn’t a clue about strokes back then and knew no more about them than most people – now I do lectures and talks on the subject!”
Stockton Mayor Lynn Hall will be the guest of honour at a party during its regular Wednesday gathering at Sundell Court in Oxbridge, Stockton, when there will also be a celebratory cake.
And the festivities will have an extra spring in their step after the group was awarded a “lifesaving” £1,500 donation in Middlesbrough and Teesside Philanthropic Foundation’s biggest ever Golden Giveaway, which saw a record £25,000 dished out to a wide range of deserving causes.
Their cheque was handed over by Ken Devereux, of the charity’s patron Devereux Transport, during a special event at Boro’s Riverside Stadium event.
Happy Talk meets every Wednesday and puts on a wide range of activities including armchair keep fit, singing and dancing displays.
“We also have quizzes and games to keep the mind going, which is so important when you’ve had a stroke, and arrange days out, pantomimes and Christmas dinners.
“These days we’re all ruled by time but in Happy Talk, the clock stops. People can come at any time they want to.”
The Golden Giveaway donation will mean Ron won’t have to spend as many winter days standing outside in the cold running tombolas and car boot sales to raise the money they need.
“The Philanthropic Foundation, for me, is marvellous, and this money will help us go right through until next year,” he says.
“It’s a lifesaver. We got £500 three years ago, which was a massive help, but I was shocked and over the moon to get so much this time.
“I put it on our Facebook page and sent out 300 texts asking people to vote – and they certainly did!”
Follow the group on Facebook at www.facebook.com/happytalkstrokegroup/