We were sad to report in February 2020 that our wonderful treasurer and trustee member Helen Bacon died following six years of living with cancer.
Helen dedicated a large amount of her free time and energy to helping others, selflessly and relentlessly. She made a huge impact on the lives not just of our riders but also their families and all the volunteers she worked with.
Helen was completely committed to RDA and her enthusiasm and dedication could not be beaten even in the worst adversity. We have all marveled at her resilience and strength especially over the past few years when she tackled every difficulty with a positive attitude, determination and a warm smile, with a few choice swear words at times!
Helen was the first person our Chair, Gill Petty, spoke to within RDA and Gill blames Helen’s persuasive and enthusiastic nature for the fact that Gill is now a coach, founding trustee and chair of our Pegasus Group, as well as Chair for the North West Region! Her cunning nature has caught many of us out, and Gill is certainly not alone in having situations manipulated or created for us by our lovely friend!
Helen got involved in RDA in 2008 as a volunteer and then progressed to coach, and later trustee of the Greater Manchester Group.
During the same time, Helen took a stint on the North West regional committee as county chair for Greater Manchester. This involved visiting groups in the area and offering support and guidance.
In 2016 the Greater Manchester group was folded and a couple of us decided to set up a new group, Pegasus. After 12 months of planning, Pegasus opened in 2017 with Helen as Treasurer and one of the coaching team. Two months before we opened the doors, Helen was diagnosed with stage four cancer.
Thankfully for us, this diagnosis did not impact on Helen’s mild obsession with spreadsheets, filing and keeping us on track as we launched, established and grew our group.
After one pretty grim procedure, Helen and Gill did a funding bid interview with Children In Need from her bed in the Christie Hospital. Any of the trustees could have done this interview, but Helen was adamant that she wanted to see it through. The interview secured us funding for children under the age of 18 to ride, for free, for three years. This makes a huge difference as families can access us without worrying about costs. And it means we can channel additional fundraising into growth and extra support needs.
Outside of our immediate group Helen was actively involved in other RDA activities. Within the Region for example we have an annual rider holiday in Clwyd where riders get their own pony and stay on-site, enjoying and learning as much as possible. Helen volunteered at the holiday several times, as a coach and evening entertainer! She also demonstrated her more creative side during our arts and crafts sessions, and gingerbread decorating competitions!
In 2018 we nominated Helen for Riding for the Disabled’s National Volunteer of the Year. This is an award presented by the National Organisation for someone who has gone beyond expectations in their volunteer role. Over 50 people were nominated, and Helen of course won! This was completely unexpected by Helen. National office made a video of her, we warn you, it will make you cry!
Even when receiving her award from Clare Balding at the Gala Dinner, Helen really didn’t think she was deserving, even though it was plain to see from everyone else’s eyes that she absolutely was.
Last year RDA was 50 years old and nationally there was a large media campaign promoting the work we do. You may have seen the National Championships featured on Countryfile last summer. One part of the campaign is ’50 Faces of RDA’, each face tells a story and gives perspective on what RDA means to the huge community that we touch. This photo you see of Helen on this page, is her 50 faces photo. And we hope that you will all treasure that smile as much as we do.
Last year we took a leap and bought a horse for Pegasus, and he is shared with North Cheshire equestrian centre where we are based. Funding for this came through various activities, such as the Manchester 10k running race which Helen ran whilst still on chemo, determined again not to let her illness to get in the way.
The horse is called Cooper, and was pretty much Helen’s project horse. Several times a week Helen would work with him, teaching him the things we need him to know to do his job for our riders. An aspiration Helen had for Cooper, was to ride him at the North West Regional competition and hopefully qualify for the National Championships. When this happens, although Helen won’t be there riding him, we know Helen will be with us, willing us on in her very non-competitive, competitive style!
With her fabulous organisation skills, Helen was across everything within Pegasus. However, we have been able to sneak something in. We shall be launching an annual recognition award, The Helen Bacon Memorial Trophy which will be awarded this year for the first time. And we will welcome all of you to our award ceremony, to be part of the ever-lasting legacy.
Helen’s love and dedication for RDA continues now, we are honoured that Helen has asked for donations to Pegasus RDA to remember her life. Some of you are already planning fundraising activities for Pegasus in memory of Helen. This lasting gesture and kindness will enable Pegasus to continue to provide therapy, enjoyment, and achievement to our riders, their families and our amazing volunteer family. Just as Helen wanted.
Helen is survived by her husband Mike.
With thanks to Gill Petty, who read a version of this Eulogy at Helen’s celebration of life in Chorlton on 5th March 2020.