Over fifty people abseiled down a 100-foot wall at the John Radcliffe Hospital this weekend, raising funds for Oxford Hospitals Charity.

The Great Big Hospital Abseil has been taking place for around 20 years, but had to be cancelled in 2020 and 2021 during the pandemic and again in 2022 following the death of the Queen.

Gail Williams, Events Manager at Oxford Hospitals Charity, said: “It was so good to be back! We were absolutely bowled over by the courage of our abseilers - there were smiles all round on this very sunny weekend.”

Pippa Parnell and Anna Brain, both Sisters on the Children’s Ward at the Horton General Hospital, were first to abseil on Sunday morning’s session.

Moments after getting her feet back on the ground, Pippa who lives in Brackley,  said: “Wow, that was amazing! Getting over the edge was the hardest bit and were really quite nervous before we did it, but it feels amazing now.”

Anna Brain from Banbury added: “Once we started coming down the wall it all clicked into place and loved it. We have now raised well around £700 so it was definitely worth it. What a thrill!”

Kelly Flaherty, from Oxford, was abseiling in memory of her baby son who passed away last May. She tackled the challenge with her friend Helen Austin and had lots of family and friends cheering her on.

She told us: “I feel quite elated now, it’s a good feeling to have done it. I was abseiling in memory of Joseph, because we were so supported by the hospital when he passed away last year – especially by the bereavement team at the Ashfield Trust. We know a lot of the things provided for families comes from the charity, and it’s a good feeling to raise money in his name to help others.”

Jo O’Callaghan, a breast cancer nurse at the Churchill Hospital, abseiled with her husband Mark, to celebrate her 60th birthday.

After the abseil she told us: “It was really exhilarating! It was the first time I’ve ever done anything like this and it was amazing. I am a nurse specialist in the Breast Cancer Unit, and every patient I meet is facing a massive challenge – so I wanted to give something back to support those patients. Also the hospital charity does so much for patients and staff and this was a way to say thank you”

Katrina Randon, from Garsington entered a team with her husband Chris along with some of his work colleagues, Graham Rutterford and Bruce Valentine from Optek - an engineering company based in Abingdon.

Commenting on the event Katrina said: “We had such a fun day, it was brilliantly organised and there was such a nice atmosphere - we really value what Oxford Hospitals Charity does for our local hospitals.

‘Our son, Alan, who is now 15, has had a lot of treatment and surgeries at the Children’s Hospital over the years. He still goes in for regular checkups but we have really appreciated the support that the Children’s Hospital has given him during his time there.

‘We took part in the abseil many years ago when Alan was little and decided now was the right time to do it again to show our support to the charity. So far, team Optek has raised £640 with a final push to get more sponsors this week.

Another star on the day was Denise King from Didcot. Denise had always wanted to give abseiling a go but is terribly scared of heights. In fact, she struggles to go on escalators - so completing this challenge was a very proud moment for her indeed.

Speaking about the abseil she said, ‘The initial lean over the edge was the scariest bit, I thought I was going to freeze, but once I got going it was fine.

‘I enjoyed it so much that I am hoping to do it again with my daughter Emma.’

Her family were there to cheer her on and were all so proud of her for overcoming her fears.

And you might remember the lovely Fran Mullen, our Youth Worker, who completed the abseil with her friend Amelia Rutt - a nurse on Mel's Ward.

Speaking of the event Fran said, ‘The day went really well, the weather was great which meant we had lots of spectators and there seemed to be a real sense of community.

‘I was quite nervous as I'm not a big fan of heights but the charity staff and Rope Race staff were so reassuring.

‘My friend Amelia was very good at hyping me up! She loved every second and said she would happily go up again.

‘For me, the hardest part was getting started - it was actually really fun once I was over the initial fear! Between us, we have raised £565 so we’re very pleased.’

We would also like to give a big shout-out and thank you to the Rapid Relief Team, who provided catering on the day. They worked tirelessly in the heat supplying free food to our hungry abseilers and NHS staff. They also took £225.20 in donations.

Our thanks also to the Rope Race team and our friends at Radio Cherwell for keeping the music coming.

But most of all a huge thank you to every single person who bravely tackled the 100ft wall for so many of our special hospital causes. You really are amazing. 

If these stories have inspired you, there are still some spaces available for our September abseil. Click here to sign up. 

And visit our Facebook page (search Oxford Hospitals Charity) for all the images from the day.