Stu Francis saves Bolton charity from closure
CASHING IN Stu Francis, patron of Daytrippers Bolton, with Sam Eccleshare, aged nine, and George Leedham, aged six
WHEN “Stormin’” Norman Thomas felt he had no choice but to hang up his charity walking boots it was a case of “oh no he isn’t” for Bolton panto star Stu Francis.
Mr Thomas, aged 74, from Horwich, always said he would call it a day on the 10th anniversary of the Ray of Sunshine walk.
But that was before he met Crackerjack star Stu, who convinced him to do one more walk across the beautiful countryside in Bolton and Chorley.
The walk has raised more than £20,000 since it started in 2003, supporting Bolton Hospice and Daytrippers, a charity which provides subsidised outings and activities for disabled children and their families in the borough.
Popular entertainer Stu is the patron of Daytrippers and was on hand to accept the cheque on behalf of the charity.
Mr Thomas said: “I always said I would do the last walk on its 10th anniversary. When I presented the cheque to Stu he said I couldn’t finish the walks so I said I would do another one if he would do it with me.”
The 21-mile walk will take place in May and Mr Thomas has said he will work around Stu’s schedule.
Stu said: “I didn’t really do anything — it was all down to the fundraisers who walked from Horwich to Botany Bay and back. I just collected the cheque from Norman because I’m a patron of Daytrippers.
“I’m really grateful that they’ve raised so much for two really fantastic local charities.
“I love walking and often go for long walks with my dog Sam, so I’m looking forward to getting involved next year, all being well.”
Retired plumber, Mr Thomas, added: “Stu will see some lovely areas, which can only be seen if you walk through them. He is very sincere and it is great that he his patron of Daytrippers because people know him and can relate to him.”
Mr Thomas, started the walk in memory of a friend who was cared for at Bolton Hospice.
He said: “My friend went to Bolton Hospice a couple of times a week and said it was a ray of sunshine, so that is what I called the walk.”
The walk started with 10 people and this year it attracted it 40.
A keen walker for 22 years, Mr Thomas is a member of the East Lancashire Long Distance Walkers Association.
He said: “I have been supported on the walk by members of the East Lancashire Long Distance Walkers Association, friends and by Daytrippers.”
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