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A look back over the last year as we wave goodbye to 2023

Hi Sunshine News Readers,

I can’t quite believe I’m writing the last column of 2023! It feels like just yesterday that I joined Team Sunshine in March, but since then, I’ve had the pleasure of being part of so many amazing events, memories and campaigns.

We thought it would be nice to look back at 2023 as we head into a new year, and we’ve put a little video together rounding up the year – grab a cuppa and give it a watch!

The year started off quite sparse of events as we had staff crossovers and lots of preparations to do for events later in the year. However, January involved a Narnia themed discovery session which included sensory play, crafting and decorating.

In February, we hosted our first ever mediumship night with local spiritualist and friend of the charity, Stephen Crawford, and we’re delighted to say we’ll be bringing it back for a second year at Shearer’s Bar on Wednesday, February 7 2024, and tickets are on sale here. In March, we organised a ‘first of its kind’ Netball Festival which invited our Sunshine Children to come and take part in the sport.

In April, I went on my first family event which was an Easter trip to The Centre For Life, where we were able to offer free tickets to some of our families and give some of the kids the opportunity to try out their sensory bags. May saw a team of trekkers take on the Lakes 3000s challenge and battle all the elements, and raised over £9,000 in total!

Our 2024 trek is all confirmed and all will be revealed next week… any guesses where we might be heading this year? Then came June, where we celebrated the 20th anniversary of our much-loved Sunshine Run and the sun truly came out for us and started off our summer season with a bang. Sponsored by Stagecoach for the third year, we had around 250 runners who helped us paint the toon yellow and we can’t wait to see what 2024 brings.

This led on to two summer family events; the first being a mermaid-themed sensory day at Cruddas Park Surgery, and the second being one of our biggest family events in Sunshine Fund history: a beach day at South Shields consisting of 1-on-1 adapted surf session and group surf sessions for siblings, as well as coastal exploring, all led by the team at South Shields Surf. This was a fabulous day with lots of memories created and cherished, and it was an absolute delight seeing so many of our children try out something completely new.

It also took us back to our charity’s historic routes as we came full circle; The Sunshine Fund celebrated its 95th birthday this year and it all began following a £15 donation from King George V upon the opening of the Tyne Bridge, and the donation was to facilitate a trip to the seaside for disadvantaged children in the region.

And speaking of coming full circle, we delved even deeper into our history by going back to where it all began with our Sunshine Zipline. What better way to commemorate 95 years than jumping off the Tyne Bridge, where the charity started? We took a team of 20 challengers, myself included, and faced our fears to raise over £1,500!

After a rainy summer, September gave us a weekend of hot weather and sunshine for the Great North Run, which was sponsored by our friends at True Potential. The campaign was a success and the team recently handed over a cheque totalling £20,633!

Then came the final quarter of the year, and undoubtedly the busiest. We kicked October off with another trip to the Centre For Life for their ‘Our World From Space’ day.

We’ve been lucky to build a wonderful relationship with the science museum and we want to thank David Jones, Community Liaison Manager, for giving our families some amazing opportunities, and for listening to feedback from our young people around access. They really are a great example of an organisation that listens and cares about making their venue as accessible as possible, and this passion shines through.

Throughout October, Stagecoach ran Halloween collections on their buses as part of their fundraising for our highly anticipated Chillingham Castle Scarefest, raising £2,211.31 alone. The challenge was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before and I can’t wait to return next year, although it’s definitely not for the fainthearted! We continued the Halloween celebrations with a sensory session at the Metrocentre, and this was when Amanda, our new Fundraising & Events Co-ordinator joined the team.

And in a flash, we were at the Grand Hotel for our annual Question of Sport quiz and dinner in November. After months of preparation it was a triumph, and NatWest took home the trophy for the second year in a row.

They were closely followed by our Sunshine Fund Dad’s table, who lost out by just one point, but it was the first time we’d invited families to the event and it was wonderful to hear some of their stories, and we thank them for sharing them with the room. The event was sponsored by our friends at Lowes Financial Management, and the night raised over £30,000!

Just like that, we catapulted into all things Christmas! We started December in Eldon Square where we were joined by North East Gospel Choir, who got us all in the festive spirit by singing a collection of Christmas songs.

In just one hour we raised over £170 and we hope to work with them again next year! And then, our busiest, most emotional, but undoubtedly the most rewarding week of the year: our free, accessible Santa Grotto Bus hit the toon!

Planning for our Santa Bus began in March 2023, and involved months of preparations with our collaborative partners at Stagecoach, and it was so worth the hard work. With visits to the Great North Children’s Hospital, Hadrian School, Kingston Park Tesco with an appearance from the Newcastle Falcons, followed by a four day stint on Northumberland Street, the event was a huge success and was welcomed in a time where a lot of families can’t afford traditional grotto experiences. You can watch our video here.

Throughout December, we also ran a Christmas Appeal where we shared four stories of how we’ve supported individuals and organisations over the last year, with a different area of focus for each. We also have a collection of ’12 Days of Sunshine’ videos, a social campaign highlighting different areas of our charity, and of course, we celebrated Christmas Jumper Day in style! If you have a spare few minutes, please read our appeal pieces here and see how you can support children like Harry, Olivia and Freya, or multiple children from community groups like North East Sight Matters.

And what will 2024 bring? Our events calendar is already brimming with exciting events, some that have been announced such as our Sunflower Ball which will celebrate 95 years of our charity, raising a toast to the families we’ve supported, and reuniting supporters old and new – find out more here. We also have lots to announce in the coming weeks so keep an eye out!

We hope you’re having a lovely festive break and we look forward to welcoming you back in 2024.

Thanks for reading,

Sophie X



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