EuroMillions winners Frances and Patrick Connolly have surprised young carers on Teesside by donating a second respite caravan for them to go and enjoy a welcome break.
The Connollys’ PFC Trust charity, created after winning the lottery to help local communities, initially raised £50,000 as part of its UChangeLives25 fundraising campaign to provide one holiday home for Hartlepool Carers and Stockton’s Eastern Ravens to use.
Mrs Connolly has stunned both groups during Carers Week (June 7-13) by purchasing the second caravan and they are due to pick up the keys at Parkdean Resorts’ Cresswell Towers Holiday Park on Wednesday, June 9.
A selection of young carers from Stockton and Hartlepool will head to Druridge Bay, Northumberland, this week to get a glimpse of the sort of break they can enjoy – away from the huge number of hours each week they do unpaid to help others.
Mrs Connolly said: “I am overwhelmed by the generosity of the people of Hartlepool, Teesside and beyond. To put such an effort of time, money and support into this at such a difficult time is inspiring and I am proud to have been a small part of the endeavour.
“Patrick and I always intended to buy a second caravan but kept that quiet so as not to overshadow the most impressive part of the challenge which was the monumental effort made by the PFC Trust and all its supporters and friends. We thank everyone involved in every way from the bottom of our hearts.”
The initial UC25 fundraising effort – the brainchild of the PFC Trust – saw more than 60 groups and individuals successfully work through a number of sponsored challenges to hit the £50,000 target before an April 2, Good Friday, deadline.
But the Connollys have followed that up by significantly contributing towards the second caravan so both Eastern Ravens and Hartlepool Carers have one each and can be shared when required.
Hartlepool Carers’ chief executive Christine Fewster said: “#UC25 is a legacy that will support many young carers and their families across Hartlepool and Stockton for years to come.
“The dedication from our community in raising £50,000 is something we will always remember and be proud of.
“We launched the appeal in one of the toughest times our community has ever seen, but this did not stop people supporting and making the dream happen.
“We are also extremely grateful to the PFC Trust and Frances, without them we would not have the opportunity to enable young people to get a break from their caring role.
“Hartlepool Carers are really excited to start creating positive memories for young people of Hartlepool!”
Eastern Ravens Trust Manager Tracey Hamilton said: “When I got the call to say that there were to be two holiday homes, one for each charity, I actually cried.
“The generosity shown by Frances Connolly and the army who backed the PFC Trust’s UChangeLives25 campaign have made this possible and we honestly can’t thank them enough. “Respite breaks are vital for young carers’ emotional health and well-being, it’s where they learn that they are not alone and where they make new friends. Our holiday homes will provide lots of new opportunities, experiences and happy memories for young carers which will stay with them for the rest of their lives.”
Parkdean Resorts have worked with the young carers’ groups since Easter to find the perfect spot for the caravans. Cresswell Towers was deemed to be the ideal location given it is still in the North-East so isn’t too far away from Teesside.
And Cresswell Towers’ sales manager designate Chris Smith said: “We’re delighted that Hartlepool Carers and Eastern Ravens have chosen Cresswell Towers.
“The brand new three-bedroom holiday homes will provide guaranteed comfort for carers and their families to enjoy some well-deserved respite at our beautiful park, while they can also take advantage of the wide range of activities and facilities on offer.”
“We are also extremely grateful to the PFC Trust and Frances, without them we would not have the opportunity to enable young people to get a break from their caring role” – Christine Fewster, Hartlepool Carers CEO