CEO Mark willing to dance to merry tune as Rowcroft battles through pandemic

Mark Hawkins outside Rainbow House at Rowcroft Hospice

Mark Hawkins outside Rainbow House at Rowcroft Hospice - Credit: Archant

“There’s never a dull day at the hospice,” says Mark Hawkins, Rowcroft Hospice’s CEO of nearly four years. “Every day is filled with incredible new challenges, and that’s what keeps me on my toes!”

It’s challenges that keep Mark engaged and agile, and his career to date has been full of them - previously in the high pressure world of digital TV and entrepreneurial business leadership, and now at Rowcroft where he is charged with the demanding job of guiding the charity through the choppy and unchartered waters of a global pandemic.

Mark leads with a clear vision, genuine passion, positive attitude and a steely determination to succeed - coined by his time in business driving large-scale corporate initiatives and embracing the latest technological innovation. His colleagues at Rowcroft will tell you that he always goes above and beyond for the charity, dedicating time, energy and enthusiasm on a superhuman scale.

The challenges of the COVID crisis have clearly taken their toll on the charity and on Mark personally, but he will never be thwarted. With Mark’s steady hand at the wheel, the charity continues to support nearly 2500 people each year, providing end-of-life care to patients and their families across South Devon.

He says: “The pandemic has brought wave after wave of challenges and demands, especially for our frontline clinical teams, to whom I am forever grateful for their enduring compassion, strength and devotion to our patients. Our care teams have continued providing expert end-of-life care, comfort and support to people facing the hardest days imaginable. We have continued helping patients and their families to make every day the best day possible, and to make the most of every precious last moment. I’m also so grateful to our wonderful South Devon community. People have supported us so generously throughout, enabling us to continue caring for local patients in our hospice in Torquay, and in patients’ own homes across 300 square miles of South Devon.

“Despite the overwhelming community support that has lifted our spirits and kept our care going, Rowcroft’s overall income has been hit hard by the economic repercussions of the pandemic. We have suffered a significant loss of income caused by the temporary closure of our 16 South Devon shops and cafes, and the cancellation of our mass-participation fundraising events. We know the journey ahead is a difficult one, but I’m sure we’ll come through this crisis stronger for it. We have been busy exploring and advancing new approaches for income generation, such as new ways of fundraising and the launch of an online shop.

“Another challenge that we are rising to is to extend the reach of our care in people’s homes across our community, to meet the escalating demand that is forecast due to an increasingly ageing population with ever-more complex needs. We currently support around one in three people with a life-limiting illness in South Devon. Our aim is to support one in two people by 2023, and two in three by 2030.”

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The challenges may be immense, but Mark is not one to shy away from a challenge, even when it’s way outside his comfort zone and especially if it means helping the hospice. To help raise much-needed funds for Rowcroft, he even agreed to take part in their Dancing Stars fundraising event last winter, which saw him shimmying to latin dances and ballroom classics at Torquay’s Riviera Centre and featuring on BBC Spotlight.

When Mark’s not at work, he crams his free time with all kinds of heart-racing activities, spurred on by his two teenage sons.

He says: “The job keeps me very busy, but when I do have free time, I love nothing more than to spend precious time with my family - cycling, kayaking, swimming, skiing, powerboating and even wakeboarding. I do like to keep active, and if there’s a challenge to be had, then I’m always up for it!”