CAROLINE Avery has spent her adult life mainly doing two things: keeping fit and raising money for good causes.

At 69, she has just retired from teaching fitness but continues to raise money for a variety of local charities – “just because I enjoy it so much.”

Caroline was born in Farnworth, the second eldest daughter of nine children. She has five sisters and three brothers and her father was a master baker with Mellings Bakery.

“I was the little mum to my brothers and sisters,” explained Caroline, “but, unfortunately, it also meant that sometimes I missed school so was only average at my studies.”

She attended St James’s Secondary School where she loved science and PE – the latter influencing her life. “I was double-jointed and very flexible so I could do PE easily,” she stated.

She left school at 15 and became a tailoress at Burton’s. Caroline married at 21 and had a daughter, Lisa Jane, at 23. Shortly after that, she spotted an advert for a keep-fit class at Hollands School in Farnworth. “I went along and that was it – I loved the music and the movement,” she recalled.

She also felt that it was something she could do herself so started her first class at a church hall in Prestolee. “I was a bit scared at first,” she stated. “I used to nail a smile on my face and look beyond the class at the wall to get over my nerves but I soon loved it.

“I chose all the music, and if anyone requested anything they liked, I put together a routine to that so we all had plenty of fun!”

Her blend of fitness fun soon meant that she started classes in other venues around the Bolton and Farnworth area. Some evenings, she was teaching more than 100 ladies.

She also felt that a fitness session, adapted to suit different ages, was something everyone could try so she began gentle sessions in local old people’s homes with equal success. She even created her own brand of aerobics – Chairobics – to get people with mobility problems moving.

Caroline decided to broaden her knowledge and enrolled at Salford College of Technology to study psychology, physiology, dance, sports injuries and nutrition to supplement her practical keep-fit knowledge. This led her to broadening the scope of her fitness classes to slimming and nutrition which, in the ‘70s, was not as well-known as it is today.

When an attendee in one of her fitness classes told her about her son who had been diagnosed with kidney failure, Caroline decided to run a two-hour keep-fit session to raise money towards kidney research. This took her fitness interest into a whole new area.

“Raising money became a regular happening for me”, she said. From fitness sessions, she raised money for leukaemia research, premature babies, for the Christie Hospital and Bolton Hospice among many good causes.

Alongside running her fitness classes, Caroline also worked as a team leader for Granada TV’s Careline for 25 years, manning phone lines to offer a listening ear to anyone with problems. These ranged from the lightweight like how to cook a turkey to the serious like the time Caroline spent four hours on the phone (successfully) persuading a 14 year-old boy not to commit suicide.

When Caroline was diagnosed with breast cancer six years ago, the surgery and treatment might have called a halt to her fitness and her fundraising. But, within six weeks, Caroline was back organising a two-hour Zumba session to buy comfortable chairs for the Breast Unit at the Royal Bolton Hospital.

She raised £1,150 from that but a reasonable estimate of the charity money she has raised over the years is around £90,000.

Three years ago, she married Ian and they live happily together in Horwich where they enjoy walking and the outdoors. Caroline has recently given up taking keep-fit classes but is still admirably flexible.

She is glad that she has been able to put the two major interests of her life together to raise money to help other people but insisted that “other people have achieved a lot more.

“I’ve loved everything I’ve done,” she added, “and I’m glad if it’s helped other people.”