HARTLEPOOL could drive up a hat-trick in a national competition that recognises taxi drivers who go the extra mile.
And the nomination in the UK Cabbie of the Year awards couldn’t have come at a better time for charity champion John Rogers, who recently suffered a family loss.
The 47-year-old has made it into the top three of the national event, following town cabbies Stephen Picton and John Osborne who are the previous two years’ winners, and it is hoped John can keep the cabbie crown in the town.
John has dedicated the past few years helping local and national cancer causes.
These include raising funds for tragic Hartlepool youngster Becky Bell, who died from brain cancer aged just seven in 2012, and Josh Dawson, seven, also of the town, who is in remission from an ependymoma, a tumour of the brain’s support cells.
But tragedy struck closer to home in January, when his sister Jane Rogers, 50, was struck down with a brain tumour and died just five days later.
Poignantly, if he wins, John, of Lawson Road in Seaton Carew, says he will dedicate the honour to his sister, who lived in Billingham and was mum to Zoe, Tana and Callum Rogers and a grandmother-of-four.
The decision was taken to donate Jane’s organs and while her liver has gone to a 44-year-old with children, the other organs are being used for research.
John, who has been a cabbie for 22 years and runs JJ’s Taxis, said: “I’m lost for words. It’s been a tough year, but I’m dedicating this to Jane.”
John was nominated by fellow town cabbie Stephen Picton and Josh’s mum Michaela Dawson.
John, who is married to Joanne, 42, and dad to seven-year-old Lilli-Jo, estimates to have raised around £34,000 for charity, including £12,000 for Josh and £12,000 through the March of the Mods event, for the Teenage Cancer Trust as part of a committee of 15.
“I couldn’t have done it without their support helping me through that time,” he said.
He carried on helping to organise the town’s March of the Mods music extravaganza in March, despite only losing his sister, who worked voluntarily for the British Heart Foundation, a few weeks before.
John also took part in last year’s Miles for Men event with Josh, and plans to repeat it again this year.
As well as standard fares and airport transfers, he operates school runs for special needs youngsters, one to Sunderland and the other to Middlesbrough.
He will travel to the UK’s largest taxi trade show, the Private Hire & Taxi Exhibition at Donington Park, in Leicestershire, on Tuesday, with Stephen and John.
John added: “I’d like to thank everyone who has nominated me.
“It’s nice to be nominated, but it’s not why I do fundraising. It’s just because people need help.”
Last year’s winner Stephen said: “I want to pass on the torch to someone who’s good and honest.
“If he win’s that’s a hat-trick for the town, and which other town could say that?”
If John wins, he will pick up £1,000 and a year’s free taxi insurance.
Even if he is placed second or third he will win either £500 or £250.
Steve Roberts, manager of Swinton Taxi Division, said: “We want to reward hardworking cabbies who continually go the extra mile for their customers.”