A grandfather-of-three whose wife and son died within months of one another says volunteering for Bluebell Wood has “changed his life” as he adjusts to a future without them.

Bryan Rowlands, from Rotherham, lost his wife Katherine of 13 years to cancer in 2016 and within a matter of months, his 39-year-old son Colin took his own life.

The support he received from his daughter Emma and his grandchildren, as well as from good friends, helped him through the dark days that followed, and made Bryan determined to give something back to  the community.

“Katherine passed away in January and then in November, my son Colin took his own life. In the months in-between I also lost two brothers,” said Bryan, 67, who’s now retired.

“It was the worst year of my life, and it always will be.”

Bryan had lived happily with Katherine in Lancashire, but after the tragic events of 2016 he decided to move back to Rotherham to be closer to his family.

“So after I’d finished decorating my new house, I desperately needed something else to focus on and a very good friend of mine suggested volunteering at Bluebell Wood.

“I’d heard of the charity, but knew very little of their work having lived so far away. So, after chatting to a few people about the incredible work at the hospice, my mind was made up.

“I have to say that I had no idea what to expect and was a bit apprehensive at first, but the second you walk in there all that disappears.

“Meeting other staff and volunteers was so uplifting and it really feels like I’m part of a big family.

“I find it so satisfying and it’s really helped me to move forward. I wake up in the morning excited to go in.”

With almost 50 years’ experience in the engineering industry, Bryan has been putting his many talents to good use in the charity’s eBay team.

As well as searching for bargains to sell on Bluebell Wood’s treasure trove eBay page, Bryan’s even hand-crafted a range of unique and quirky lamps which have proved incredibly popular.

Now Bluebell Wood is keen to hear from any potential volunteers who’d like to lend their time to the charity, whether that be at the hospice, in one of its charity chops or in the community.

The charity has an incredible team of volunteers whose varied roles all help Bluebell Wood create magical memories with local children and families.

You can find out more about joining the extended Bluebell Wood family here or by following the charity's new Facebook volunteering page here which has all the latest updates.

Take it from Bryan, you won’t regret it:

“I thought the hospice would be clinical, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

“The atmosphere is so friendly, I always leave feeling top-notch. Having something to focus on, something that helps others after all the support I received, really has changed my life.

“It’s better than being in a football team – and that’s saying something.”

Rebecca Lund, Volunteer Coordinator at Bluebell Wood, said: “We’d like to say a big thank you to Bryan, not only for his hard work, dedication and creativity, but for bravely sharing his heartbreaking and deeply personal story.

“Bryan has been through so much these past few years so his passion for helping others is nothing short of inspirational."

“His story shows that, as well as helping local families make the most of every moment, there’s so much more to volunteering at Bluebell Wood.

"As restrictions ease and we look forward to brighter times to come, we're hoping the months ahead will bring plenty of exciting volunteering opportunities.

"So please do keep an eye on our new Facebook volunteering page or get in touch if you'd like to learn new things, meet some truly amazing people and make a real difference to local families going through some of the toughest times they'll ever face."