Bus drivers from across the north east have raised thousands for charity by spreading some Christmas cheer as they drove their buses during the run up to Christmas for their annual fundraising campaign.
During December, Stagecoach North East bus drivers from depots in Newcastle, South Shields, Sunderland, Hartlepool and Teesside swapped their uniforms for festive costumes, bringing a smile to the faces of young and old passengers alike and encouraging them to dig deep for their chosen charities.
This year passengers showed generosity in their thousands, donating £22,750 which was shared between nine charities – Royal British Legion, Tiny Lives, Caring for Kian, Children North East, Great North Air Ambulance Service, Stray Aid, CLIC Sargent, TOMA Fund and St Benedict’s Hospice.
To help boost the collections, staff handed out gifts including sweets and festive novelties, with the bus company contributing to the fundraising total.
The team at the Walkergate bus depot in Newcastle supported Tiny Lives, Children North East and Caring for Kian. 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.
62-year-old Walkergate bus driver Dave Kenney, who dressed up as Santa throughout December, said: “All the charities are wonderful causes working so hard in our local community and we are very proud to have helped them in this way.”
Louise Carroll, Fundraiser for Tiny Lives, said: “A huge thank you to all Stagecoach North East drivers and passengers who have made this possible by raising an incredible £14,000 for four local North East charities.
“Tiny Lives has been one of the charities they have kindly supported for many years and this fantastic donation of £2,500 this year means we can continue to provide developmental care aids, such as Claire’s Nest for the babies to lay in, which helps staff to position their little bodies while they are growing on the neonatal/special care baby unit at the RVI, Newcastle.”
Staff at South Shields bus depot collected funds for CLIC Sargent after a friend and former employee at the depot tragically lost his grandson Jack to cancer and CLIC Sargent was of great support.
CLIC Sargent is the UK’s leading cancer charity for children, young people and their families, and provides clinical, practical, financial and emotional support to help them cope with cancer and get the most out of life. The team at the depot were moved when they heard of the passing of youngster Jack from a brain tumour in 2013, and are keen to support whenever they can.
64-year-old Kenny Ramsey, who has been a driver at the South Shields bus depot for 45 years, said: “CLIC Sargent – which is on our doorstep and popular with the team - is a wonderful cause working so hard in our local community and we are very proud to have helped again this year.
“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.
Lindsay Kay, CLIC Sargent area fundraising manager for the North, said: “I would like to say a huge thank you to Kenny, everyone at Stagecoach and the very generous local community for raising such a wonderful amount and for their continued support. At CLIC Sargent, our vision is that everyone under 25 with cancer, and their families will get the support and help they need during their cancer treatment and beyond, including bereaved families living with emotional pain. We are so grateful for this generous donation in Jack’s memory.”
Staff at Stagecoach’s Teesside depot in Stockton raised money for the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS). The GNAAS provides 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.
Stockton bus driver Geordie Richardson, 26, said: “We would like to thank our passengers for supporting us and giving as generously as they did on their travels and hope we made their journey a little more fun and festive.”
Following the cheque donation at the Teesside bus depot, David Gibson, Public Liaison Officer at GNAAS, said: “We couldn’t keep flying without this kind of support, so I’d like to thank everyone involved, from the Stagecoach staff to the passengers who got behind this fundraiser.”
Steve Walker, Managing Director for Stagecoach North East, said: “I’m really proud of our staff for going above and beyond and getting into the Christmas spirit by dressing up as Santa, all in the name of charity. They’ve raised a great amount, which will help to further boost the fantastic support provided by these wonderful charities.
“Special thanks go to our passengers who kindly donated to the charities onboard the buses. A large proportion of our staff get involved in charity, fundraising and community work throughout the year and we look forward to a successful 2018.”