Drivers from both Newcastle bus depots have raised a staggering £17,300 for charity by spreading some Christmas cheer as they drove their buses during the run up to Christmas.
Based at depots in Walkergate and Slatyford, the drivers at local bus operator Stagecoach North East dressed as Santa Claus while on driving duties, bringing a smile to the faces of young and old passengers alike and encouraging them to dig deep for the chosen charities across the region.
Customers once again showed generosity, with staff from Walkergate collecting for Children North East, Caring for Kian and Tiny Lives, and each charity receiving just over £2,800. At Slatyford, employees helped to raise a staggering £8,700 for the TOMA Fund. During their shifts, the drivers and staff handed out festive novelties to help make the journeys for passengers even more jolly.
Walkergate bus driver David Kenney, who dressed up as Santa Claus throughout December, said: “All the charities were chosen by the staff, and offer much needed support in our local community. We are very proud to have helped them in this way and it is great to see the depot drivers getting involved so we’re very grateful to them.”
Children North East works with children, young people and their parents who are living in poverty or whose lives are disadvantaged because of family misfortune.
Carol Taylor, Senior Fundraiser for Children North East, which is celebrating 125 years of the charity, said: “We can’t thank the staff at Stagecoach enough for the fantastic work they put in to raising money for us over the Christmas period. Christmas is a particularly hard time for families who are struggling and the help and support received from the Stagecoach staff and passengers really does help us to continue making a difference here in the north east. Thank you to everyone who has given so generously.”
The charity Caring for Kian was set up for four-year old Kian Musgrove to help raise funds in his fight against cancer after being diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma in October 2013. After initially receiving treatment, including chemotherapy and radiotherapy at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, Kian suffered a relapse, for which further treatment could not be offered in the UK. The family is now building up a fund of £550,000 for pioneering treatment in the United States and Kian has just returned from a treatment visit to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre in New York.
Kat Musgrove, mother of Kian, said: “I would like to thank Stagecoach North East again for their extreme kindness in helping for my son Kian. We are currently in UK and have been for two weeks; we have another two weeks here and will then fly back to the USA again for more treatment, with one more year of treatment to go. Kian is doing well but recently was rushed to hospital with extreme temperatures, where he was kept in for three days but is doing okay now. Please follow Caring for Kian for updates.”
The Tiny Lives Trust helps to care for premature and sick new-born babies and their parents in the Special Care Baby Unit of the Newcastle Neonatal Service based at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle.
Louise Carroll, Fundraiser for Tiny Lives, said: “We really can’t thank Stagecoach staff and passengers enough for their continuous support to Tiny Lives. Their fundraising efforts throughout December are truly amazing, raising over £17k for local charities in the North East. Tiny Lives is privileged to be one of their chosen charities and means we can continue to provide the best possible care to over 700 premature and sick babies and their families, who every year spend weeks, sometimes months on the RVI Special Care Baby Unit.”
In Slatyford, bus driver Jonathon Middlemiss helped organise the fundraising for the TOMA Fund, an independent charity dedicated to helping children, teenagers, young adults and their families, who are going through treatment for childhood cancers in the North East and Cumbria.
Jonathan, who dressed up as a pantomime ‘ugly sister’ alongside two fellow drivers throughout December, said: “We would like to thank our passengers for supporting us and giving as generously as they did on their travels and we hope we made their journey a little more fun and festive. I would like to thank all the other drivers for helping out.”
The Toma Fund is dedicated to the memory of Jordan David Thompson and Sophie Ela Atay, who were cousins that tragically died from childhood cancers. Jordan was 15 when he lost his battle with Leukaemia in September 2007 and Sophie was just two when she died of Neuroblastoma in March 2010.
Andrea Thompson, CEO and Founder of the TOMA Fund, and Jordan’s Mum said: “A massive thank you to Jonathon, who as the main organiser, chose the TOMA Fund to benefit from this fundraising. I would like to thank all the other drivers who are brave enough to dress up, as it is not any easy thing to do on the bus! It was great to see them in their costumes as the buses went past.
“I would also like to thank the public for their generosity as it is very busy time where money is needed at Christmas. To raise that amount is phenomenal and the money we have received will help us massively, including our free caravan holidays for families affected by cancer and our family ‘treat days’ such as the Polar Express train ride. We can now help more and more families with cancer create memories to build on and it means the world to me as I lost my son to cancer.”
David Wakefield, Operations Manager at Stagecoach North East’s Walkergate depot, said: “The amount raised this year has been astonishing and we cannot thank the public enough for their huge generosity, especially at Christmas when we appreciate that money is tighter than ever. Every year a number of our bus drivers from the Newcastle depots choose to dress up for work and help raise money for charities such as Children North East, Caring for Kian and Tiny Lives, which I am sure makes a huge difference to them. It’s great fun for both the drivers and the members of the public who enjoy seeing who will be driving them.”
Malcolm Bell, Operations Manager at Stagecoach North East’s Slatyford depot, added: “We are always happy to support our drivers in their fundraising efforts and would like to commend them again on their dedication to making a difference during the festive period. I’d also like to thank all our passengers and the rest of the depot for giving so generously. Seeing Santa Claus driving the buses puts a smile on everyone’s face and is great fun for all involved.”
Across the six Stagecoach depots, staff raised an impressive £26,500 for various charities over the festive period, which included a donation for each depot from Stagecoach North East.