Virtual Great North Run

A college lecturer is running to the aid of the hospice which helped his uncle through his darkest times.

Sports lecturer at Darlington College Craig Hayward plans to run from work to his home in lieu of taking part in the cancelled-by-COVID Great North Run on September 13.

His half marathon effort is the latest in a series of fundraisers by Darlington College staff to help St Teresa’s Hospice, whose finances have been blighted by the global pandemic.

Craig managed to secure a coveted place in the Great North Run, which he planned to complete in memory of his uncle, Geoff Bell, who spent his final days being cared for by St Teresa’s Hospice.

But when the event had to be cancelled because of COVID-19 he was determined to help by gaining sponsorship to run the same distance, from Darlington College to his home in Newton Aycliffe.

“Uncle Geoff and my aunty Maureen lived in Cockerton and spent their lives staging jumble sales and tombolas raising more than £250,000 for charities,” he said. “I remember them always picking stuff up from people’s houses and thinking ‘wow’ about what they did.

“When Geoff became seriously ill it was the first time I had experienced anyone with a life-limiting illness and when I visited him in St Teresa’s Hospice I remember them being absolutely fantastic at such a dark time – they were so good. Every time I went I left feeling I wanted to do more for the hospice.

“I read something about how much all charities were losing as a result of events being cancelled and charity shops being closed by COVID so wanted to do something to help. As a Darlington boy and former college student myself it’s great to see us supporting St Teresa’s.”

Craig is hoping to raise as much money as possible for the hospice and has set up a Just Giving page at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/craig-hayward4.

St Teresa’s Hospice needs £3m a year to provide day, in-patient and community care, as well as family support and bereavement counselling, in Darlington, South Durham and North Yorkshire.

When the pandemic struck an emergency appeal was launched to try and make up some of the shortfall and remains operational – donations can still be made at https://justgiving.com/campaign/hugtostts.

Chief executive of St Teresa’s Hospice Jane Bradshaw said: “Despite the challenges of the pandemic, it is so important that we keep a positive outlook and the support of our community has been vital and inspirational.

“Contributions like Craig’s are incredibly important. We really appreciate his energetic response, the ongoing support from Darlington College, and the help of all our supporters and friends, enabling us to continue the Hospice’s services.”