Hi Sunshine News readers,
This time last week, Siobhan and I had an incredibly special visit with our friends and loyal supporters at the Stagecoach Slatyford Depot, in the West End of Newcastle.
Regular readers of our column will already know about the amazing partnership we’ve had with Stagecoach for several years now, as you have seen previous pieces written about the work they have done to support us, but we think they deserve an extra special
mention this week.
Our first event with our friends at Stagecoach was our now much-loved, fully-accessible Santa’s Grotto based on Grey Street in Newcastle.
Since our first Christmas with Stagecoach, the entire team have gone above and beyond, hosting and supporting a series of fundraising events and raising a phenomenal £40,000 for The Chronicle Sunshine Fund.
What makes our relationship so special with Stagecoach is the support we receive from every single team member.
From the directors and the fabulous marketing team to the drivers, engineers, and operations team, they all get involved in fundraising campaigns and events and we really can’t thank them enough for it.
Their enthusiasm is infectious and every member of our team who have visited any of the Stagecoach depots in our region, have all been overwhelmed with how the staff take time to learn about the work we do.
As a small regional charity with just six team members, people are always so shocked to find out that we need to raise over £320,000 annually to fund vital equipment for disabled and terminally ill children and young adults in our region, our family services like our helpline and the accessible events we host.
People often don’t realise what a huge geographical area we cover, or just how many children we help each year.
Stagecoach’s regular fundraising ensures we can carry on being here when families need us the most and we like to think of them as an extension of our tiny team.
They are best known for their annual Santa Bus and on-the-bus collections at Christmas which often raises over £10,000 for us and Northumbria Blood Bikes (another exceptional charity may we add with the loveliest army of volunteers).
The ‘driving force’ behind the Christmas fundraising campaign is Bus Driver Jonathan Middlemiss who really is our biggest cheerleader.
After a challenging Christmas in 2020, when our accessible grotto was cancelled, Jon donned his Santa suit and recorded a series of personalized video messages for some of our families who were shielding.
Jon and his colleagues pulled out all the stops in 2021 with their ‘costumed collecting’ in full swing, to ensure they put smiles on the faces of passengers on their routes and raise vital funds for both charities.
This festive period, they raised over £10,000 via on-board collections, but what’s even more valuable is the festive cheer they spread across the region during these uncertain and often saddening times.
Getting the accessible grotto back out on the road to visit children who needed cheering up was a real highlight of 2021 for Team Sunshine, and we battled the elements to make sure we could host as many events as was possible so that Santa and his Elves could spread their unique brand of Christmas sunshine.
Without Santa Jon, this would not have been possible.
Jon Said: "I love our Christmas events with The Sunshine Fund.
"I’ve recently found out that over the time we’ve supported the charity, we’ve raised £40,000 which is a phenomenal amount.
"Thanks to the team at Slatyford, all of the drivers who get dressed up, the management who help us out and of course the general public and passengers who give the donations.
"It’s shown by the amount of money that we’ve raised, reflects the generosity of local people and we’re delighted to play a small part.
"I hope this continues and we will support The Chronicle Sunshine Fund for as long as we can."
It’s not just Christmas that gets our drivers fundraising. In fact, we are starting to think they just love dressing up.
In November 2021, the drivers took on a new challenge as they headed up to Chillingham Castle to brave a night in the UK’S most haunted castle.
Slatyford Depot teamed up with the Walkergate Depot for this ‘Spooktacular’ stay-over, which was a great opportunity for us to get to know some of the drivers who had fundraised on their buses for years for us.
I’ve worked with the Stagecoach team right from the start and remember how excited we were when we first found out they had chosen to support us with their famous Christmas bus collection.
Over the years, we have gotten to know them all so well and I can genuinely say that I see them as a part of our team due to their commitment to our cause, and as they work tirelessly every year to make sure they have something planned to raise funds for us.
Even in the darkest times of the pandemic, Jon and his colleagues were doing all that they could to generate funds and spread our charity messages, knowing that the charity’s events and campaigns had been cancelled but that our families were still in desperate need of support.
Stagecoach has served the communities of the North East for generations and it is clear to see the passion their team has as they continue to serve our region, particularly the children and families who need us the most.
Thank you Stagecoach, it has been and always will be a pleasure to work with you all, our fancy-dress-wearing, ghost-hunting, Sunshine-running, fiercely-loyal heroes.