How Helen left her mark on the Starlight Walk

Helen Bale
Helen Bale

EVEN though she was too ill to take part, Helen Bale was determined to support the inaugural Starlight Walk for St Luke’s Hospice.

She spoke about the value of the hospice and urged as many people as possible to sign up for the 5km walk from Endcliffe Park to Forge Dam, waving off friends and former work colleagues.

The next Starlight Walk is on May 12, the first event having raised almost £70,000 for St Luke’s, where Helen died at the age of 62 on March 18 after a long battle against breast cancer.

Friends paid tribute to the former careers advisor, who had a passionate belief in young people and their potential, working to help disadvantaged and disaffected youngsters and fighting injustice and racism. “She hated intolerance and challenged unfairness wherever she found it,” said her friend, Ruth Sanders.

Helen’s many interests included art and sculpture. She was a frequent theatre and cinema goer and a regular at her Tai Chi group.

“She was a well-rounded individual with many friends, interests and connections,” said Ruth. “Coming from East Anglia, she loved the sea and sailing. And she was a keen and regular walker in the Peak Park and the mountains of the Lake District.

“She played the flute and she loved many different types of music from classical to jazz and world music. A few years ago she went to Mali to the world music Festival in the Desert just north of Timbuctoo.”

Malian music will be played at her funeral today (Thursday) at Hutcliffe Wood.

Helen, who lived in Hunters Bar, used St Luke’s Therapies and Rehabilitation Centre.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001 and, after the prognosis looked good, the disease returned in 2009, just as she was about to fulfil a lifelong ambition to visit Peru.

It spread to her lungs, liver and bones. She admitted that she initially felt cheated and angry, but decided to adopt a straightforward, practical approach, planning for the future of her daughter, Kiya, aged 22, and speaking up for St Luke’s.

She put plans in place for her funeral, picking the music she wanted.

“I could go to bed and pull the duvet up over my head but why would I want to do that?” she said. “I have a lot to go on living for and I want to live as well as I can for as long as I can – and when the end comes, I want it to come with good music.”

Ruth said: “Helen did not believe in celebrity. She thought that to live an ordinary life well was not only sufficient, but also celebration enough.

“Despite this, and always thinking about other people, Helen agreed to offer her personal story to the publicity campaign for the Starlight Walk to raise money for St Luke’s. “Although already weakened by disease, she met many of her friends and former colleagues, who took part in the walk, to offer her thanks and encouragement. We are all very proud to have known her and to have counted ourselves as her friends.”

lStarlight Walk registration costs £15 per person or £10 per person for groups of six or more; people aged five to 15, £10. Visit