When Antony Tolson dies, he will be leaving his prized collection of guitars to The Fire Fighters Charity. This, he says, is his way of thanking the Charity that has made such a difference to his life, as well as the lives of hundreds of other colleagues within the fire and rescue community.
“I think it will be a nice thing to do, because we all have to look after each other,” he says. “My family don’t want them, so I’d like to give them to the Charity. Whether they’re used as some sort of musical therapy or the proceeds go to helping other people, I don’t mind, I just think it’s important to do something. We are all doing a difficult job, and if we don’t stick together, The Fire Fighters Charity won’t be here.”
Antony says when he joined the fire service as a fit 18-year-old, neither thoughts of writing a will nor his own mortality were on his radar: “When you’re young, you think you’re invincible,” he says. “You do the car washes and make donations, but you think you’ll never get ill or injured, and you’ll be able to stay as fit as you always were. But now I’m getting older, it’s harder to maintain the same level of fitness I used to have. This is such a physical job, and getting older is when you really have to concentrate on your health and fitness. At 51, I don’t think I’m doing too badly, although my body is starting to give up on me!”
After a hiatus hernia operation last year, where a ruptured diaphragm muscle worked its way through his stomach wall, Antony attended our Cumbrian centre, Jubilee House, for physiotherapy. When we speak to him, it is during his second visit, as he has returned for more physio following further problems during recovery.
“It’s a physical job, which has an impact on your body, and you can’t force it,” he says. “We’re part of an emergency service, so you really do feel like you’re doing something worthwhile with your life. I came here and I recovered a lot more quickly than I was expecting to, but you never know what incident or event is round the corner.”
This desire to get back to work is one that resonates with a lot of fire service personnel, especially the psychological impact being off sick can have on your wellbeing: “Everyone you work with has the same mindset; you’re there because you want to be there. So when something is stopping you from doing your job, it is stressful. You don’t realise, when you’ve been fit and active your whole life, how much it will affect you when things start to go wrong with your body. You can’t do the things you used to, and this knocks your confidence. In your mind, you’re still a young man who wants to get back to work as soon as possible, but your body has other ideas.”
For Antony, the whole experience of his time with the Charity was as healing as his personalised programme of treatment, particularly being with like-minded people.
“It would be awful to come here and not have anyone to talk to who gets it,” he says. “You’re mixing with people who have had the same sort of life you’ve had and on top of that, the facilities are fantastic. If I didn’t have somewhere like this to come to, I would not have been able to progress as I have.
“This is why I chose to leave a contribution to the Charity in my will. We’d be completely lost without this place, and as long as people continue to raise money, this facility will always be here.”
“Choosing to leave a gift to The Fire Fighters Charity in your will is a deeply personal decision,” says Trusts and Legacies Manager Lisa Matthews. “You may not be around to see its impact, but your gift will allow your peers, colleagues, friends and like-minded souls across the fire and rescue service to benefit from support that could change their lives forever. A financial gift will help us to ensure that we are able to fund in-demand physical and psychological services into the future, while a considered gift-in-kind will allow us to achieve specific, targeted results with our beneficiaries.”
You can find more information online about leaving us a donation in your will, or about setting up a regular donation, to help provide first-class support to the men and women of the fire and rescue service.Share your story