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Stratford Riding for the Disabled founder Beryl Sainsbury remembered with fundraising tribute, Beryl’s 100 for 100

STRATFORD Riding for the Disabled founder Beryl Sainsbury, who died aged 99 last September, is being honoured by friends, family and riders at the club with a fundraising tribute called Beryl’s 100 for 100.

Granddaughter Becky Harrold explained: “When our grandma, Beryl, died in September last year like many families we weren’t able to say goodbye properly and celebrate her life in the way we wanted.

“As the 18th September 2021 would have been her 100th birthday, my sister Lucy and I decided that we wanted it to be a positive experience and so came up with the idea of Beryl’s 100 for 100. As part of our challenge, we are raising money for the Stratford RDA group as it was so dear to her heart.”

Beryl Sainsbury (46624533)
Beryl Sainsbury (46624533)

Beryl started the Stratford branch of the group, offering horse riding for disabled children and adults, in 1968. She continued her involvement for more than 32 years, including her role as physiotherapist to 70 regional groups, and was awarded an MBE in 2004 in recognition of her commitment to RDA.

The initial idea of Beryl’s 100 for 100 was to ask 100 people to grow wildflower seeds in Beryl’s memory as she loved her garden, but before long Becky and Lucy had already sent out 200 packets of seeds, and so the sisters developed the idea.

Becky continued: “We decided it would be great if we could involve people who weren’t able to be with her at the end of her life and would like to do something in 100s from March until her birthday in September, however big or small. We have been amazed by the response that we have had from people who knew Beryl or whose lives have been touched by her, particularly through her work with RDA.”

The 100 for a 100 includes all sorts of activities. Becky and Lucy’s aunt, actor Sarah Douglas, intends to sit on 100 benches all over the world, Dr Paul Edmondson, of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, is reciting 100 sonnets, and some of the challenges being undertaken by riders at RDA include doing 100 acts of kindness, walking 100 miles, and playing 100 games of dominoes.

From left, Sarah Douglas, Marilyn Price, Lucy Whittington, Rev Paul Edmondson and Becky Harrold pictured at Holy Trinity. Photo: Mark Williamson H16/4/21/7186. (46595835)
From left, Sarah Douglas, Marilyn Price, Lucy Whittington, Rev Paul Edmondson and Becky Harrold pictured at Holy Trinity. Photo: Mark Williamson H16/4/21/7186. (46595835)

Explaining her mission to sit on 100 benches, Sarah told the Herald: “Sitting on benches and remembering the person whose name was on the plaque or even just wondering who they might have been, was a favoured pastime in Mum’s latter years.

“I have already had two random people sit with me and tell me they knew mum. I also have had two more meaningful chats with strangers who just wanted a chat. Mum would have loved that.

“I only have 92 benches to go but at the end I will have accumulated 10,000 minutes of memories of Mum. Perfect!”

Beryl’s kindness and thoughtfulness for others are well known, but she didn’t have an easy life herself by any means.

Her eldest daughter, Marilyn Price, mum of four, including Becky and Lucy, explained: “Mum married my father Gerard Borg when she was 21 and he was 23 in Hall Green, Birmingham. I was born in the November of the following year and my father was killed in the invasion of France in May 1944. Mum was already training in the first group that qualified as physiotherapists at Queen Elizabeth Hospital before she married and finished her training as a widow.”

Beryl became well known to many through her work as a physio at Stratford Hospital and her private work at the RSC.

Beryl meeting Princess Anne in 2018 for RDA's 50th anniversary (46624531)
Beryl meeting Princess Anne in 2018 for RDA's 50th anniversary (46624531)

Sarah recalled: “Her tales of Laurence Olivier and Charles Laughton and many other famous thespians are legendary. As an actress it was a delight for me to end up often working alongside some of her theatrical patients. All whom remembered her so fondly.”

Beryl retired in 1983 when she remarried after 26 years on her own and became Beryl Sainsbury. Sadly, her husband Paul died eight months later from cancer.

Recalling her mum, Marilyn said: “All my happiest memories are of life growing up with my amazing mum. She was a life-force of compassion, laughter and kindness. I can see her now in her white starched, short-sleeved overall she always wore, always with an arm around someone’s waist listening and encouraging people who were struggling and in pain. How her patients loved her.

“She also was chief organiser of the hospital panto and any social events, there we would be serving teas, handing out cakes and always lots and lots of laughter.

“As if that were not enough she then started her RDA groups at Windmill Hill Stables (now Stratford Manor Hotel) and so new adventures and friends to be made, horses to be groomed and events to attend.

“How lucky we were, Sarah and I, we grew up thinking this was what everybody’s home life was like; always on the go, always helping others, always there when you needed her. How we miss her.”

To find out more or donate, visit beryl100for100.wordpress.com.

Riding for the Disabled doing Beryl’s 100 for 100

Archie Parsons, 11, an RDA rider for four years, and his sister Evie

Archie and Evie Parsons (46624527)
Archie and Evie Parsons (46624527)

The siblings are doing 100 acts of kindness. So far they have delivered Easter eggs to four random neighbours, picked litter, decorated and filled little Easter baskets and left on people’s doorsteps, delivered meals to homeless people, decorated rocks with positive messages and put in front gardens, made cakes and given to the bin men and put money in a parking machine. The biggest one for Archie was parting with his collection of milk bottle tops (don’t ask!) which he gave to a charity which uses them to give money to developing countries.

Heather Rhead, 34, is walking 100 miles (a challenge for her!) and is cooking 100 biscuits to bring to the stables. There is a picture of her on the top of Latterbarrow in the Lake District, which she had walked to with her dad, Alan.

Heather Rhead (46624535)
Heather Rhead (46624535)

Matthew Andersson, 43, has currently stepped up and down onto an aerobic stepper 40 times out of his 100 challenge (A huge challenge for him as he has reduced mobility.

Jo Pratt, 57, is playing 100 games of dominos with her friends and carers. Already 53 games to date but she was taught by her grandad and he did a very good job – no one has beaten her yet.

Meanwhile, Gill Evans, grandmother of a RDA rider, has crocheted a unicorn and has organised a draw to raise funds. And Jill Nelhams is cleaning the toilets at the stables 100 times, while Christine Locke is baking 100 cakes to sell every Saturday in May in Brailles.

RDA farm owners, Des and Rosemary Wells are planting a line on Beryl’s wildflowers next door to a field of sunflowers which riders will be able to ride through in the summer.

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