A DISABLED woman who set up a foodbank during the pandemic has had her garden transformed by a legendary TV gardener as a ‘thank you’.
Pip Donegan, a mum from Acklam, Middlesbrough, got the surprise of her life when Alan Titchmarsh turned up at her door.
Every week Mr Titchmarsh and his team perform a makeover on the garden of a deserving person and their family.
And this week the crew descended on Middlesbrough to transform Mrs Donegan’s outdoor space.
She is well known by many families on Teesside for setting up the PIPSCO accessible foodbank at the beginning of the pandemic – now run by Tees Valley Together.
Over the past year she also brought Santa and his Jolly Elves to children who were shielding, wrapping and managing deliveries to 1,572 local youngsters.
This year she has made up more than 700 activity packs for families impacted by disability that she despatched over Easter and during summer activities.
Mrs Donegan and her son Harrison also hid more than 800 books and gifts in Middlesbrough during the February half term holidays.
However, life wasn’t always so rosy, as she explains on her Facebook page. She has suffered debilitating depression which landed her in a mental health hospital.
After that scare, she vowed to accept her medical condition – Ehlers Danlos Syndrome – and create a new path for herself.
When son Harrison came along in 2017 Mrs Donegan started her ‘Pip Disabled Mum’ Facebook page, aiming to dispel the myth that disabled people cannot be parents.
She raises awareness, has become a disability advocate and disability benefit advisor for the Charlie Gard Foundation and volunteers for Teesside Families.
Mrs Donegan plans to continue her voluntary projects this year with the help of Teesside Community Action Group, a charity that helps local activists find, then apply for funding, supporting individuals from the beginning to the end of their grassroots projects.
Mrs Donegan said: “I could barely breathe when Alan said ‘open your eyes’. My garden seemed so much bigger and my first thought was that I can’t wait for Harrison to see it.
“It will make a huge difference to our lives, especially when I am really ill and spending days on end in bed. I can open those huge doors next to my bed and watch Harrison play, knowing he’s safe in his own outdoor space. It really is life changing.
She added: “It really was a complete surprise. I had only just got out of bed, I answered the door with a sharps box between my legs with my medication drawn up to inject. Then came the texts from neighbours asking ‘was that Alan Titchmarsh?’
“Alan was so lovely, you could tell he really cares. He spoke with such a soft voice and was such a good listener. Harrison absolutely loved him and still talks about him now.”
Mr Titchmarsh’s team included, Katie Rushworth, who created a rustic looking den for Harrison that even Alan said he wanted to play in
Frances Tophill created a spectacular dinosaur world, inspired by Harrison’s love of dinosaurs and volcanoes, at the perfect play height for him.
And David Domoney made a “wonderful” three-tier fruit and vegetable garden with tomato and strawberry plants.