‘Harker’s Army’ to continue Jo’s foody fundraiser

The fundraising work of an inspirational mum who lost her battle with cancer earlier this year is set to continue.

Tuesday, 18th June 2019, 4:29 pm
TEAM: The friends and family of Jo Harker will Jos Strawberry Tea at St Michaels Parish Church, East Ardsley on June 29.

Jo Harker, of Tingley, raised thousands of pounds for cancer charities, hospices and a hospital before she died aged 46 in March after a long illness with breast cancer.

Now the mum-of-two’s family and friends are set to carry on her annual charity event by staging Jo’s Strawberry Tea later this month.

Jo's Strawberry Tea 2019 is being held in memory of Jo Harker, pictured, who died in March.

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The June 29 event at St Michael’s Church Hall, East Ardsley will be in her memory and will raise funds for Wheatfields Hospice, who cared for her, and for Harker’s Memory Making Fund.

Her daughter Libby, 15, said: “To me she was really inspirational, she helped so many people through the fundraising throughout the years. She was so lovely and was always wanting to help people.

“She was really chatty and funny. As a person, from a friendship perspective, she was always up for a laugh, doing things with the girls - a proper woman’s woman. She was just amazing.”

Kindhearted Jo had a history of fundraising for charities, like Candlelighters, long before she became ill. But In 2011 she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had treatment. Later she got the all clear and decided to fundraise for Breast Cancer Care and MacMillan by staging Jo’s Strawberry Tea.

Jo Harker on holiday in Switzerland with her children Libby and Harry.

The first one was staged in 2013 as part of Libby’s school gala at Westerton Primary in Tingley. But such was its success it had to be moved to St Michael’s Church Hall in East Ardsley, and they have been entertaining people with cream teas there ever since.

Over the years the event has also supported Pinderfields Hospital, Wheatfields Hospice and Wakefield Hospice. In 2016 it also raised money for charities which raised awareness of bowel cancer following the death of Libby’s uncle, Wayne Kelly, from the disease that year.

Jo’s cancer returned in 2016. She developed secondary breast cancer, which spread to the brain.

Libby added: “When she first got diagnosed she didn’t think she would make it to the 2017 strawberry tea, but she did, and to the 2018 event as well. Straight away she was planning for 2019. We had already booked the church.”

Jo Harker, second from right, donating to Pinderfields Hospital where she was treated.

Jo passed away on March 26. But this year’s event was never far from her mind.

Jo’s husband Steve said: “Joanne actually left the instructions with her friend Marie Woodhead. This year was already planned, as much as it could, with Joanne’s help. It’s really her friends and her family who are carrying it on.”

A team of about 30 people, known as ‘Harker’s Army’ will continue the fundraising effort. These include her husband, Steve and children, Libby and Harry, 12, and Jo’s friends Marie Woodhead and Liz Aveyard.

The main beneficiary this year will be Wheatfields Hospice who provided “amazing” care to Jo in her final days.

Mr Harker said his wife spent 55 days at Wheatfields from January until her passing on March 26.

Daughter Libby added: “We could not fault how they looked after her. They were absolutely amazing and so kind.

“Everyone knows what hospices are associated with, so going there was really daunting but they were so lovely and by the end of it you just felt you were going to a house because you knew everyone.”

The family hope lots of people will join them on June 29 to remember Jo and to help to continue her work.

FACT FILE:

This year Jo’s Strawberry Tea will take place on Saturday, June 29.

The fundraiser at St Michael’s Church Hall on Cherry Tree Walk, East Ardsley, will be in memory of Joanne Harker who lost her battle to cancer in March.

The 11am to 3pm event will raise money for Wheatfields Hospice and Harker’s Memory Making Fund.

There will be homemade cake, hot and cold drinks and lunches. There will also be games, a tombola and a raffle. Raffle prizes include a Leeds United shirt signed by members of the 2018-19 squad and vouchers for Pizza Express and Room 97.

Jo’s Strawberry Tea has been going for six years. Over the years it has supported Breast Cancer Care, MacMillan. Pinderfields Hospital, Wheatfields Hospice and Wakefield Hospice. Each year Joanne and her team of friends and family, known as ’Harker’s Army’ beat the previous years total.

Last year they raised in excess of £5,000 for Wheatfields, which supported Jo during her illness.

Jo also did other charity fundraising outside the Strawberry Tea format and it is thought she raised more than £30,000 during her lifetime.

People can donate online. Go to www.justgiving.com and search for ‘Jo’s Strawberry Tea’. The Harker family would also like to thank Jo’s employers, Encon Insulation, off Gelderd Road, for their support during her illness.