After the success of our Supplier Spotlight blog posts in May, we wanted to carry on shining a light on individuals and organisations that are making a profound difference in the lives of others and transforming our world for the better. For our first Samaritan Spotlight, we spoke to Julie Kent MBE. A vibrant and inspiring speaker with a passion for charity, she founded Emily’s Gift after the death of her daughter to a brain tumour at three years old. She has also been a trustee for the Pied Piper Appeal. She’s an experienced musician, favouring the saxophone and singing, and has performed both in the UK and across the globe. As well as running a weekly radio show on SevernFM, Julie also offers colour and style coaching for men and women looking to gain confidence in their wardrobe.
EZ Hamper interviewed Julie to learn more about herself, her services and Emily’s Gift! Here is the first of many Samaritan Spotlight with Julie Kent MBE.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself as a person, Julie?
“I’m sixty one, I’m supposed to be retired but I’m not really! I originally did a degree in jazz and light music, I was a musician and I used to play in jazz quartets, big soul bands. Then, I started to play more with a guitar and we used to play six nights a week. And then I went into teaching music because the late nights didn’t blend so well with having children. I still play now, a bit!
We had our first daughter (Emily), and she died when she was three, as she had a brain tumour. So, we started Emily’s Gifts and raised money for children with cancer in Gloucestershire and there’s a children’s ward there now called the Emily Kent unit. Then, we had two other children and I continued to teach and then we moved into an independent school where I ran a boarding house, looking after sixteen teenage girls. I then retired just as the pandemic hit, and the plan was that I’d go back out playing music. Just before I retired, I was given an MBE so I thought about starting to do public speaking. After seven or eight years, we closed our charity.”
Would you be able to tell us a bit about your involvement with Emily’s gift and the Pied Piper Foundation?
“We founded Emily’s gift on the 10th of March 2023 to raise half a million in one year. This is to fund a psychologist on the children’s cancer ward because in 2005, the guidance said all children having cancer treatment should have psychological support- and there is none. So, we launched that and we’re halfway- we’ve raised £250,000! Eight years ago, the Pied Piper Appeal, the charity that we’d given money to for the children’s cancer ward, asked me to become a trustee so I got involved there.”
What are the core values that drive you and what you do?
“Honesty! Also, I think be yourself. When people say what’s your biggest piece of advice, I say be yourself! But maybe I can say that because I’m 60, I think when you get to that age you think sod it, this is me- you either take it or leave it! I also think the more I’ve been myself, I’ve been more successful in whatever I do. And trust, especially in charity, people want to trust that where you tell them their money’s going, it’s going to go there. Also giving- If you can’t give money, then give your time and give yourself (which is what i’ve ended up doing!).”
Have you faced any obstacles since working in the third sector? How did you overcome them?
“The competition! That’s the biggest thing, the amount of charities that you’re up against- they’re all good! People generally react to what’s happened, so if someone were to pass away from a heart attack, people would be more likely to raise money for a charity like the British Heart Foundation. Or if you know a friend or a sister or relative that’s had breast cancer, you will get involved with breast cancer. However, groups of people like businesses are good for gaining charitable donations, and I’ll try to promote them as much as possible. I also often say build a relationship with someone you’re raising money for. Don’t just do it for one year, work with them for a couple of years!”
How did you get into providing your colour and style service?
“My aunty years and years ago trained me to do it and I did a refresher, again as I was about to retire thinking that was something I can do. I do love it when the ladies come in and they can see a difference. I think doing the styling gives them a confidence then to go shopping, buy something and know it’s going to be the right thing.”
How did you get into guest speaking and your radio show?
“I’d been asked to speak a few times, I think probably getting the MBE made people think “she must have something to say and talk about, she’s got an MBE!”. So many networking groups are often looking for speakers. But the radio show was a cousin of mine, who owns the radio channel and he asked if I would do a show. I record it, send it to my husband who puts all the songs on, and then it gets put onto the radio station. Four o’clock every Sunday it goes out. My guests choose seven songs and we talk in between the seven songs.”
How can people help you and your mission?
“More people are doing things to help, and the word is spreading. It’s a case of anything, any money at all is absolutely great and the more it gets out there. September is childhood cancer awareness month so that could be a big month. Even if it’s just raising awareness, that makes people go to the website and donate. We’re also looking for 250 businesses to donate £2000, which can be paid over five years.”
Donations, whether personal or through a business, can be given on the Emily’s Gift website at https://www.emilysgift.co.uk/how-to-donate. To learn more about Julie, head to her website: https://juliekentmbe.com/ and also don’t forget to follow her socials:
Radio Show (Hosted at 4pm every Sunday) (https://www.severnfm.com/)
Stay tuned for future Samaritan Spotlight blog posts that celebrate organisations and other people like Julie Kent, who are helping to make the world a more positive place!