REG Boulton retired from the Army fire service in 1961.

Remembering his days as an Army firefighter are what kept his spirits lifted.

But after battling with heart failure, Reg needed something to keep a positive mindset.

He started attending day therapy groups at St Helena Hospice which made an enormous difference.

His first experience was at the One Day At A Time men’s group - an eight week programme for men to meet with others to learn about living fully despite the effects of illness.

Each week, the group explores a new theme considering how best to live each day with dignity.

When Reg attended, the group visited Wivenhoe Fire Station for Essex County Fire and Rescue Service’s Firebreak initiative.

For Reg, from Colchester, it was a chance to reminisce about his days as an Army firefighter.

Reg died in May. But his daughter Tracey Thomson praised the rehabilitation, physiotherapy and occupational therapy teams involved in the day therapy groups.

She said: “I would like to thank all the team at St Helena for what they did for dad. I know he enjoyed his time at the groups.

“Some of his belongings have been given to the St Helena shop hoping it will give back and help the place that has helped him.

“I am so proud of him for what he did with his life and how he helped others.”

Speaking before his death, Reg had told the team of how the therapy sessions had changed his life.

He said: “It’s been a change from the normal daily routine. I’m not sitting looking at the same wallpaper all day long.

“It’s nice to have the company, get back with colleagues and talk about things I’m interested in. It’s helped me quite a lot.”

Five months later, Reg was up on his feet dancing to Blondie on the Wii Fit at another of St Helena’s day therapies groups, Relax and Move.

He recognised the change in himself. “It’s marvellous,” he said. “You feel as though you’ve achieved something which is important as you’ve conquered that anxiety from your illness.

“I think we’re all making progress, you can see it every week.

“I live alone so I have to do things and everything I do is an exercise in itself.

“It means I can eventually go to bed and sleep peacefully, whereas before I was on broken sleep worrying about if I could get up the next morning.

“That’s the benefit. You can’t run but you can walk.”

Dennis Hill, from Clacton, attended St Helena’s Hospice’s Breathe Happy group, and described the support and education programme as life changing in managing his chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

He said: “They talk to you like a human being and that’s all you want. I was not able to breathe and it got to the point where I thought I was on my last knockings.

“But going to the group was one of the best things that ever happened to me, apart from meeting Marcia. We’ve been married almost 50 years now.

“Before, I couldn’t get from one side of the room to the other. Since I’ve been going to the Breathe Happy group, it’s been marvellous.”

Marcia said Dennis’s attitude has changed. She said: “He’s done some lawn mowing, just a yard but the desire has been put there.

“I’m his sole carer 24/7. He has a few hours at the group and I know he is in a safe, kind environment. If anything happens they’re on it. They know me, they know him and it’s brilliant.

“Now he can get his t-shirt on, with a little bit of help, over his head.

“The more he can do for himself, the less I have to do for him. I’ve seen quick changes in him. It has a wonderful effect on me too.”

These are just two of the day therapies groups run by the hospice to support people facing incurable illness and bereavement.

To find out more visit

To sponsor a day therapies group programme, contact St Helena’s Fundraising team on 01206 931 468.