Eastern Ravens’ Trust Manager Tracey Hamilton, Hartlepool Carers’ Chief Executive Christine Fewster and the PFC Trust’s founder Frances Connolly meet up to celebrate raising the £50,000 for a new caravan
“A massive thank you” was the message from egg-static UChangeLives25 leader Frances Connolly after hitting the £50,000 mark before the Easter weekend.
The UC25 campaign, powered by Mrs Connolly and her husband Patrick Connolly’s PFC Trust, has inspired people from across Hartlepool and the Tees Valley to raise money over the last 12 weeks.
Its aim was to secure enough to provide a respite caravan for young carers in Hartlepool before Good Friday, April 2.
More than 60 individuals and groups have pulled together over the last few months by successfully working through a number of sponsored challenges to hit the £50,000 target.
A delighted Mrs Connolly, who founded the PFC Trust to help local communities after winning the EuroMillions lottery a couple of years ago, said: “You could have knocked me over with a feather if I’d known what would happen when we decided to do this.
“The support has been absolutely fantastic from the people of Hartlepool and friends across the world. We are so grateful to everyone who decided to donate and help the cause.
“In fact, it’s a big thanks to everyone who supported by doing a challenge, donating or spreading the word – and a special thanks to my whole team of trustees who not only did a challenge but drove and promoted the project throughout.
“At a time when everyone has their hand out it has been incredible. I never thought it would be a constant growing stream of people keen to help like it has been. I knew we would get there eventually but it has been truly incredible.
“Coming out of such a bleak period, an incredibly difficult time for everyone, the young carers are at the end of their capacity to deal with it. The money raised will give them a big lift. It is just amazing. It couldn’t happen at a better time.”
Mrs Connolly, who is well known for her generosity to help good causes, raised £15,000 herself by losing weight. She was one of a group of 20 slimmers who shed just under 300lbs and raised a further figure of almost £7,500 between them.
Her daughters, Fiona and Natalie, smashed the £5,000 barrier together and a long list of others contributed too.
Hartlepool Carers themselves raised £5,000, while more than £2,000 was raised by a group of 15 nurses from the South Tees NHS Foundation Trust.
There have also been incredible gestures and efforts from the likes of The Big Town Tidy Up, Manilla Cycling, Poolie Time Exchange and the Hungry Seagull coffee box at Seaton Carew.
Christine Fewster, the Chief Executive of Hartlepool Carers, said: “We are overwhelmed by the generosity of the community. The difference to young carers’ lives is going to be incredible. It is so hard to mention everyone.
“Frances came up with the idea just after Christmas, so to get £50,000 during the pandemic is astounding. The community has backed us all of the way.
“It wouldn’t have happened had it not been for Frances and the PFC Trust. The support we have got from them has been unbelievable. We wouldn’t have been able to pull this off without the dedication of their team.”
And the Trust Manager of Stockton’s Eastern Ravens, Tracey Hamilton, said: “What a remarkable achievement for young carers. Time out from their caring roles is so vitally important and this will help them so much. We’re honoured to be a part of this fundraising campaign, UChangeLives25 will do just that, change lives.
“Well done everyone who took part in UChangesLives25. We’re proud to have been a part of it.”
The plan now is for the PFC Trust, Hartlepool Carers and the Eastern Ravens to come up with a location for a caravan to be based.
Mrs Connolly said: “Christine, Tracey Hamilton from Eastern Ravens and me have booked appointments and we are going to go shopping for a caravan now later this month.
“The caravan will go somewhere just far enough for the young carers to feel like they are going on holiday but not too far to make it difficult to get there. It’s so exciting and it’s just amazing that UChangeLives25 will have such an impact.”
The idea of UC25 was for fundraisers to come up with a series of challenges centred on the number 25 to highlight the number of hours unpaid a young carer would carry out each week.
For further details on the work of the PFC Trust check out thepfctrust.org
“The support has been absolutely fantastic from the people of Hartlepool and friends across the world. We are so grateful to everyone who has decided to donate and help the cause” – Frances Connolly, the founder of the PFC Trust