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15 Dec 2017
Customers across the north east may find themselves being driven to their destination by a new festive addition, as Santa and his little helpers take the driving seat for Stagecoach North East’s annual Christmas fundraising campaign.
Throughout December, bus drivers and other members of staff from the local bus operator’s depots in Stockton, Sunderland, South Shields, Hartlepool and Newcastle are swapping their uniforms for festive costumes in a bid to raise funds for local charities chosen by the employees.
At the Teesside depot in Stockton, staff are supporting the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) and to bring seasonal cheer, they will also be handing out festive novelties, hoping to beat last year’s total of £1,600.
The GNAAS fly three air ambulance helicopters across the North East, North Yorkshire and Cumbria, bringing pioneering pre-hospital care to the scene, rescuing hundreds of severely injured or ill patients every year.
Bus driver and relief duty manager Paul Keenan, 26, from Marske said: “Every year the response from the public is really positive, it’s fantastic. Everyone loves Santa Claus and I think it has become a part of the build up to Christmas in the community. It’s just good fun and certainly gives a great atmosphere on the buses.
He added: “Getting dressed up really cheers people up and brings a smile or even a laugh, which is nice at this busy and sometimes stressful time of year. I really want to say a big thank you to everyone who supports us, as it is really their generosity which makes the difference.”
Employees at the Sunderland depot are raising money for St. Benedict’s Hospice and Stray Aid and staff at Newcastle’s Walkergate depot have once again chosen Caring for Kian, Children North East and Tiny Lives. Employees at Newcastle’s Slatyford depot are hoping to boost donations for the Toma Fund, with Hartlepool employees selecting the Royal British Legion and South Shields staff choosing the popular Clic Sargent, a firm favourite with the depot for many years.
From 9am to 5.30pm on 19 to 23 December, a Christmas Stagecoach charity bus will be located on Grainger Street in Newcastle on behalf of the Toma Fund. Bus driver Jon Middlemiss will be dressed as Santa Claus and giving away festive freebies alongside staff from the charity chosen by the depot.
Natasha Addis, Director of Development at Toma Fund, said: “We cannot thank Stagecoach, their drivers, staff and passengers enough for their kindness.
“The money raised will make a huge difference to a small charity like ours and will enable us to support more families in practical ways as their children go through cancer treatment.
“Whether it is providing financial support to make their lives easier or organising breaks and treat days to help create memories, the money Stagecoach raises will help children, young people and their families throughout the region.
“Stagecoach has been a great supporter of the Toma Fund over the years and the additional support they are giving this festive season through the bus branding and the grotto on Grainger Street is the best Christmas present we could wish for.”
The teams can be seen driving around the town in festive wear all month, hopefully attracting plenty of attention and donations from passengers and the public.
Steve Walker, Managing Director at Stagecoach North East, said: “This has become a popular feature on our buses over the years and the drivers and staff really enjoy spreading some seasonal cheer for our customers. We are always happy to support the fund raising activity of our team and hope that with the help of our passengers we can raise as much as possible for these much-loved charities.”