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 Charity Work


A 90-year-old war veteran has inspired a transport firm to choose Francis House Children's Hospice as its charity of the year after an early morning dip at a 16th century Normandy chateau. Phil Hitchen, managing director of bus and coach hire business Belle Vue Manchester, had taken a group from the Stockport and District Normandy Veterans Association to France to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day in June last year.

The group was staying at a chateau in the village of Canisy, where Phil and Harold Addie were enjoying a 6am swim when they began chatting. Harold, who lives in Baguley, Wythenshawe, has been a supporter and fundraiser for Francis House for 20 years. Phil said: After chatting with Harold for just 10 minutes, I was blown away. Hes one of the nicest guys you could meet and an inspiration. He is 90 and does all sorts of charity work, especially for Francis House. His stories about the place touched my heart and I couldn't help thinking we could contribute something, so we have now chosen Francis House as our charity of the year. We are planning numerous fund-raising events, including a sponsored bicycle ride to Blackpool and a sportsmans dinner.

Francis House provides care and support to hundreds of children, teenagers and young adults with life-limiting conditions. Its annual running costs of £3.6m equivalent to almost £10,000 per day are funded almost entirely through public support, with only a small proportion provided by the government. Peter Forster, fundraising manager at Francis House, said: Were delighted to receive support from Belle Vue Manchester and are all excited at the company's plans to raise funds for Francis House. Our thanks also go to Harold for his dedicated commitment to Francis House over the past two decades. He always has the hospice in his thoughts. Harold's fundraising activities for Francis House down the years have included abseiling the North Stand at Old Trafford, and walking from the west coast of Wales to the east coast of England with his pet Jack Russell, Snowy. Widower Harold, a retired electrician, currently volunteers in the kitchens and on the reception desk at the hospice on Parrswood Road, Didsbury, south Manchester. He said: I'm thrilled that Belle Vue has chosen Francis House as its charity of the year. The money it raises will make a real difference to the hospice.

Charities supported previously by Belle Vue include Help the Aged, the Christie and the Prince's Trust. Belle Vue's charity initiatives are managed by Jen Williams, an actress and comedienne who has starred in Coronation Street, Emmerdale, Hollyoaks and more than 20 films and TV dramas. Jen joined Belle Vue in 2015.

Chris Bass Gualbert
Holmewood House School
Tunbridge Wells, Kent
24th July 2015

My name is Chris Bass Gualbert and I had the privilege of being driven around Belgium by Phil on our recent trip with NST. Phil took the party of 46 to various venues in Belgium from Monday 13th-Friday 17th.

He was absolutely brilliant. Nothing was too much trouble and he drove with absolute professionalism. He managed to get us where we wanted, when we wanted. He managed to load and unload the bus with speed and safety. This alone was a pretty enormous task bearing in mind how much equipment we had including a drum kit and 37 stands as well as countless orchestral instruments, keyboards and amplifiers.

Picking up was always on time and as close as he could possibly make it. He made the trip wonderfully enjoyable for all.

As the leader of the party I could not have been more impressed with his total dedication. I could not be more grateful. Many, many thanks for allowing us to have him for the trip.

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