Members of the PFC Trust (back row l-r) Shaun Hope, Sally Dunne, Dianna Russell and (front row) Fiona Connolly, Frances Connolly and Paul Hewitson. Picture taken before Covid restrictions were in place.
A £50,000 fundraising drive to provide a new respite caravan for young carers on Teesside has reached the halfway mark.
EuroMillions winner Frances Connolly, who recently revealed she has donated around half of her £115m fortune to family, friends and good causes, is spearheading the campaign.
UChangeLives25 has already raised £25,000 since it was launched on January 15 and Mrs Connolly’s Hartlepool-based charity, the PFC Trust, wants the target to be met before Good Friday, April 2.
Mrs Connolly’s own efforts have seen her lose 15lbs in five weeks through a calorie-controlled diet and exercise. She intends to lose 25lbs to tie in with the challenge which urges people to focus on the figure 25.
That is how many unpaid hours of work, at least, young carers complete each week for their families.
More than 60 individuals and groups have signed up so far in support of the push to help Hartlepool Carers, run by Christine Fewster, and Stockton-based Eastern Ravens.
Mrs Connolly, pictured, said: “I have spent two years changing people’s lives, personally or through charities. This latest lockdown seemed so much more oppressive; it is time to give everyone a chance to change lives as well.
“The best way to do that is to lead from the front, so I started the first challenge. I am a great believer in getting involved and I want others to follow.
“I have my own mobility issues, so my husband and children have looked after me for nearly 15 years. I have needed different levels of care and they didn’t realise they were carers, they loved me, and it needed doing.
“I am conscious a lot of people, young and old, are carers but don’t realise they are. When you think children as young as five are having to fetch or carry for a disabled parent. It beggars belief a childhood can be cut short with that kind of responsibility. If this helps relieve that in a tiny way, that’s what we will do.”
Big Town Tidy Up volunteers in Hartlepool have raised £1,000 to help the young carers and Poolie Time Exchange has recorded a version of Bohemian Rhapsody to get local businesses to donate too.
Friends and family from across the world are joining in, including from places such as Northern Ireland, Canada, the United States, New Zealand and Brazil.
And the town’s world boxing champion Savannah Marshall has backed it by giving 25 days of insight into her training preparation for her next big fight.
The UchangeLives25 comes at a time when unpaid carers are lobbying for more support from Chancellor Rishi Sunak. During Covid-19 and the school closures, it has been reported young carers – some aged as young as five – have been doing 90 hours plus during lockdown.
Carl Jorgeson and Kelly Daley are running the project on behalf of the PFC Trust, the charity set up by Mrs Connolly and her husband Patrick immediately after winning the lottery in 2019 to support and fund community projects within Hartlepool.
Mr Jorgeson said: “It is our privilege to be able to do what we do, to help the community in so many different ways.
“It is something people can get stuck into from a sport perspective, when clubs are closed, and we can still help the wider community. There is something tangible at the end of it too because this will have a lasting impact.”
* To join Frances Connolly on the challenge just email firstname.lastname@example.org and outline your intentions. Donations can be made at justgiving.com/pfctrust
“I have spent two years changing people’s lives, personally or through charities. This latest lockdown seemed so much more oppressive; it is time to give everyone a chance to change lives as well” – PFC Trust founder Frances Connolly