A tree-mendous fund-raising effort

Medi Parry receives the cheque from Rhona Dunn on behalf of Sanderson Arcade's fund-raising efforts for Barnabas Safe and Sound.
Medi Parry receives the cheque from Rhona Dunn on behalf of Sanderson Arcade's fund-raising efforts for Barnabas Safe and Sound.


Before Christmas, Rhona Dunn, first lady President of Morpeth Rotary, asked the club to support a new initiative for the town.

She proposed to set up a seasonal Tree of Light to celebrate and commemorate family, relatives and friends at Christmas, while raising money for worthy local causes.

Rhona thought it would be excellent if £500 could be raised, but in fact, with the support of the community, it was much more successful and raised more than £3,000.

A cheque presentation was held to give £1,000 each to the three chosen charities, which were the Great North Air Ambulance, Barnabas Safe and Sound and the Newcastle Hospitals Cancer Research Charity.

Representatives of each attended a Rotary meeting to receive their cheques and explain a little about the work the charities do.

The Great North Air Ambulance Service is the chosen charity of the Mayor of Morpeth Alison Byard.

She congratulated Rotary on the project, saying it was valued by local people and enjoyed. It meant much to her and her mother, in particular, as she lost her father in that year.

She could not think of a better charity to choose than one that directly saves lives. It gets no public funding, but costs £5million a year to run.

It operates three Eurocopters, which are big and versatile. They cover Northumberland, Durham, Teesside, North Yorkshire and Cumbria for 365 days of the year.

Staff are paramedics and so are able to treat casualties en-route using the medical equipment on board. They can get to most call-outs in around 15 minutes, whereas it can take 45 minutes for an ambulance to arrive and time can make a vital difference.

They respond to 999 calls directly in seconds, are called out around 1,000 times a year, and rescue hundreds of injured people.

Medi Parry was supporting the Sanderson Arcade charity of the year, which is Barnabas Safe and Sound.

It supports a new charity each year, and has done so for four years. In 2013/14 it was the Sick Children’s Trust and at the end of a two-year period the arcade had raised £10,000.

Each year, managers of the shopping centre consider charities that are located close to the arcade, and discuss with tenants and retailers which to choose. They plan a number of possible fund-raising activities and discuss with the charity what the money will be used for and what difference it will make, then they buy something needed by the project.

Barnabas supports and accommodates vulnerable young people from Morpeth and the surrounding area, and provides youth work and activity programmes around the region.

Barnabas has a plan to take over a community centre in Stobhill. It will transform the building, provide a kitchen and a gym, and set up an interactive community learning hub for young people. There will be a multi-purpose room and meeting facilities, where staff can get together with local young people to teach and improve on social skills.

Over the last year the arcade has hosted fund-raising events such as fashion shows, back to school events, live music and other entertainment, a ten-hour ‘spinathon’ with radio link, which Rhona took part in, and sponsorships in the Great North Run, as well as the Tree of Light.

So far it has raised £5,000 and management is in the process of talking to staff and contractors to see what goods and services can be provided to the community centre free, or very cheaply. The funding will be used to redecorate the walls, ceilings and floors and provide a projector screen, ipads and computers.

Medi thanked Rhona and Morpeth Rotary for the work on the Tree, and in support of Barnabas.

Pauline Buglass introduced Newcastle Hospitals NHS Cancer Charity. It aims to enhance and improve services for cancer patients, with projects within the Newcastle Hospitals area.

Her office is the administration centre for a number of cancer charities with similar aims, to which bids by researchers may be made, including the Charlie Bear Cancer Charity and the Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Fund. A bid may go in to improve treatments or techniques, and if successful the charity must publish its findings for everyone to use.

Morpeth is the home to Charlie Bear and both it and the Bobby Robson charity do a lot to fund research. That includes funding trials centres for a number of new drugs. The money is used to directly benefit cancer patients in the North East and Cumbria.

The Tree of Light idea was suggested by Rhona Dunn as she prepared to take on the Rotary President’s role after reading in the national organisation’s magazine of similar projects in Telford and Keswick, which had raised thousands of pounds for charity.

People would be encouraged to sponsor a light on a Christmas tree to commemorate lost loved ones, and a book of remembrance would record those who had contributed.

Sanderson Arcade agreed to provide the tree and host the scheme, and other businesses in Morpeth got on board with sponsorship. Deputy Lord Lieutenant Caroline Pryor switched on the lights.

A separate Young People’s Garden of Light was set up for children near the tree, with grass and about 500 lights donated. The garden was officially opened by the Duchess of Northumberland.