OAKHAVEN Hospice founder Jan Swallow achieved an ambition of a lifetime while raising nearly £4,000 when she celebrated her 85th birthday with a skydive.
Jan jumped from 15,000ft over Salisbury Plain in tandem with an instructor from the Army Parachute Association.
Jan, from Lymington, said: “I think we were quite a novelty duo as I am only 4ft 10in while he was well over 6ft!
“It was the most fantastic experience. I’ve always thought it looked like a fun thing to do, and it was.
“I had the skydive filmed all the way down, and the best photo of me is just as I step out of the plane with a big smile on my face. It was such a thrill.”
Jan opened Oakhaven in the late 1980s after wealthy benefactor Phoebe Coates donated £250,000 and land to build a palliative care home offering a free community-based service in Lymington in memory of her late husband John.
Jan, who worked in the palliative care sector for 25 years, knew there was a need for a hospice in the town. She said: “I could see how many people were affected by terminal illness in the area and I knew the kind of care and support they and their families needed.
“It has been wonderful to see how much it has grown, it does so much more now than when we first opened.”
Oakhaven now offers specialist palliative care to more than 14,300 residents across the New Forest, including Totton and the Waterside.
Jan’s late husband Greville was master at Walhampton School. Always a thrillseeker, she herself spent time as a surgeon on educational school ships before coming back to dry land to found Oakhaven.
When it opened with Jan as medical director, she introduced the Oakhaven Challenge, which is still going to this day.
Jan said: “I challenged everyone in Lymington to do something silly and free to raise enough money to fund a nurse for a year at Oakhaven. People did all sorts – one of my friends took two live goats into Elliott’s and refused to leave until all the staff had put money into her bucket.
“Everyone joined in the fun, from the bus service to the WI to the fire service.
“I spent the day going to various venues in the High Street including Moore and Blatch solicitors, standing on my head and singing God Save the Queen.
“It was brilliant, and I raised over £1,300.”
Jan says she has no plans to stop fundraising with wacky ideas saying: “Life is for living! I’ve had an adventurous life and don’t intend to slow down now.
“I always say old age is one year older than I currently am – so I will never be old!”