In the early 2000’s a family friend from Christchurch was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. While her husband was planning a final road trip around New Zealand together, he approached my wife and I to ask if they could stay in our beach house at Oakura Bay in Northland. They had a lovely time together, and after her passing he let us know just how much that time together had meant to them.

This experience got me thinking over a period of time and in the mid 2000’s I approached and met with Margaret Currie who managed the Northland Cancer Society in Kamo, Whangarei to see if we could do this for other families in similar positions. Together, we created a programme for donating a weeklong holiday in our beach house for families with serious health challenges. She recommended we also build a relationship with North Haven Hospice and introduced me to them.

On 15th October 2007 we hosted our first person with a life-threatening illness with their family with their exclusive use of our holiday home. Liz Carr, a Counsellor from North Haven Hospice (now passed) referred her. This was the first of many guests that Liz referred over the following years until her retirement due to her own poor health. Liz said “North Haven Hospice has been using the wonderful service Doug offers to our patients and their families regularly over the past years. The service is amazing, and being able to go to stay at a fabulous batch for free with their families has given these people immeasurable opportunities to make memories when memory making time is short! The feedback from the patients and families has been 100 % positive, they all rave about the experience.”

Liz also told me about the value of the service to her work. “Being a Counsellor, we receive a lot of gratitude back from patients from referring clients to your holiday home. This pumps us up when we’re feeling pretty stressed in what’s a difficult emotional job.”

In 2018 Olivia Greco and her family were the 50th family to step through our holiday home! Now I’ve joined TimeOut and will continue to donate my holiday home out to those with a terminal illness. This has been an experience that my family and I continue to enjoy as we get so much pleasure knowing that we have been of real help to so many families over the years at a time when they needed help the most.