Ken’s Surprise Celebration

A 90th birthday and over two decades of voluntary service could not go unrecognised, so on Saturday 18 July a special surprise tea party at the Northern Counties Club in Newcastle was held to honour Ken Hylton, our Branch President.

An inspiration to everyone at the Branch, Ken has volunteered for twenty-three years now, holding many different roles on the committee during that time, including Vice Chair, Chair, and Treasurer. Always actively involved, from attending committee meetings, giving a listening ear at support meetings, and holding buckets at street collections, to, until recently, assisting at the MND Association’s reception tent for runners at the end of the Great North Run.

In his mid-eighties he even courageously took part in the branch abseil event, joining hundreds of other much younger participants making the hair raising decent down the outside of the Malmaison Hotel in the centre of Newcastle.

As well as being Branch President, Ken has the unique additional title of Ambassador at Large. Both titles were officially conferred on him by the then CEO of the MND Association, at a meeting arranged for that purpose, in recognition of his very special qualities. In his role as Ambassador, Ken has personally attended many a cheque presentation on the Branch’s behalf, always following up the event with a handwritten letter of gratitude.

Ken became involved with the branch when his wife, Peggy was diagnosed with MND and the family were supported with advice and equipment. Ken stated, “I felt it a sense of duty to help because everybody is directly and indirectly is affected”.

The special birthday tea party had been kept secret from Ken thanks to weeks of careful organisation and subterfuge by our branch secretary Marian Dent. The first he knew about it was on arriving at the club with club with Chris Noble, Volunteering Development Coordinator for the MND Association to be welcomed by the crowd of guests, members past and present from the Tyne & Wear Branch, the Northumberland Branch, and the Sunderland Support Group, along with staff from the Newcastle Care Centre and Ken’s family who had all arrived early to help with the special surprise. Looking astonished Ken later confessed, “It is the greatest surprise of my life”.

Ken with well wishers

After a delicious afternoon tea, speeches were given. Martin Boyes, Chair of Tyne & Wear Branch, took the opportunity on behalf of the branch to recognise Ken’s 90 years, taking us back in history to events that happened in the actual year of Ken’s birth. Then he thanked Ken for all the work he has done in service to the branch over the years, reminding us of Ken’s often said comment that “if someone is willing to give us money then I am more than happy to turn up and collect it”. As Martin stated “to say Ken is a hard worker is an understatement”.

Chris Noble, Volunteering Development Coordinator for the MND Association, presented Ken with his MND Association Long Service Award certificate and pin badge, celebrating his twenty years’ of service. Chris said, “Ken is a perfect example of our MND Association values in everything he does and gives personally as a volunteer in the support for people with MND. On behalf of the MND Association I would like to thank you for everything you do Ken.”

Chris Noble presenting the pin to Ken

In his thank you speech Ken said “I am grateful to you all, and it’s absolutely wonderful to attend this event” and talked about meeting his wife Peggy, becoming engaged, getting married and having a family, and how Peggy (knowing his love of music which had developed as a child) had assisted him in getting involved in a choir, which he still enjoyed. Ken was given gifts and cards from the Branch, then glasses were raised and Happy Birthday sung.

ken cutting his birthday cake

Marian was congratulated with a round of applause for all her hard work organising such a lovely event, and there was great relief all round that there was no longer a need to keep it a secret from Ken any longer!

Ken is an absolute treasure.”  – member of the Sunderland Group

“Ken has been at every MND meeting… Has an immense interest in every person he meets… He is the role model for everybody at the charity and at the centre…He is affectionately known as Captain Mainwaring. – Francis Kelly MND Clinical Nurse.

“I met Ken 18 months ago; he has a nice lovely approach and worked hard in the Tyne and Wear Branch.” – John Fielding Association Visitor volunteer, Northumberland.

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