JANE Gates is chief executive of Sebastian’s Action Trust, having started the charity in 2004 after the death of her son, Sebastian, on Christmas Eve 2003.
Over the past decade, the trust has realised Sebastian’s last wish with the creation of The Bluebells – the UK’s only purpose-built facility offering specialist respite breaks to the families of seriously-ill and life-limited children with additional emotional, social and practical support.
Away from the demands and privilege of work, life revolves around her daughter Rebecca, husband Mike and their two much-loved Labradors – Darcy and Chester.
1. Who was your childhood hero and why? Having grown up in Australia, my idol was an Australian champion called Shane Gould. She won three gold, one silver and a bronze medal at the 1972 Olympics.
2. What is your most precious possession, and why is it important to you? A handwritten note from my son, Sebastian, which he gave me a few weeks before he died. It is a quote from one of his favourite books, The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien, saying “All we must decide is what to do with the time given to us”. For a nine-year-old battling with advanced, incurable cancer, this showed that my son was incredibly accepting of his prognosis. Sebastian was remarkably mature for his age and although his time with us was short, he loved and lived life to the full.
3. What was the first record/CD you bought? Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John. I still love listening to it now.
4. What is the radio/television show you hate to miss? As an ex-lawyer, I am absolutely glued to The Good Wife. I am also an ardent Corrie fan, although the recent storylines have been somewhat lame!
5. What is your favourite film? It’s a tie between The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile.
6. What is your pet hate? Running out of loo roll! I have to have at least 10 rolls in my house to overcome my fear of being caught short!
7. What are you reading at the moment? I’ve just started The Other Side by Kate Granger. She is a doctor who was diagnosed with terminal cancer three years ago and was given six months to live. She is still here, working for the NHS and is an inspiration.
8. If you were choosing a last meal, what would it be? I love fish and seafood so it would have to be something like langoustines with fresh lemon mayonnaise, followed by lobster thermidor, and a chocolate with salted caramel dessert. If it was my last meal, I wouldn’t be worrying about calories!
9. If you could meet anyone from history, who would it be? Winston Churchill – a charismatic leader, talented artist, brilliant orator and lover of fine wine.
10. If you had a time machine, where would it take you? Back to when my son was alive and we were still (physically) a family of four.
11. If you were stranded on a desert island, what luxury would you choose to have with you? Photographs of my family – looking at photos of happy times with Rebecca, Sebastian and Mike is the first and last thing I do every day.
12. What sports team do you support? Having married a die-hard Chelsea fan, I have learned to understand the obsession, although these days we are more likely to get excited about rugby.
13. What was your first job? I worked after school and on weekends in a supermarket in a seaside Devon village when I was 15. It taught me the value of hard work and respecting those you meet on the way up as well as the way down.
14. If you could take over someone’s job for the day, whose job would you choose? I would love to be the Prime Minister for a day.
15. What worries you the most? I am always concerned about the finances of Sebastian’s Action Trust as I worry about the impact on the families we support if we suddenly couldn’t be there to help them.
16. What is your proudest moment? After the birth of my children (an equal first), it would definitely be my daughter’s graduation. Rebecca is now a doctor (currently at Royal Berkshire hospital in Reading) hoping to specialise in paediatrics, with a special interest in oncology.
17. What would you like your epitaph to be? We have a family plot at a beautiful village church in Warfield (Berkshire) where Sebastian is buried, so I will gladly have the message he chose – “All we must do is decide what to do with the time given to us”.
18. What’s your guilty pleasure? Chocolate.
19. What one thing could change society for the better? I believe every 18-year-old should do a year of community service. It would help to give a better perspective on the important values in life.
20. What three words best describe you? Passionate, compassionate, caring.