Mine’s a pint – but only for charity

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A CHARITY chief who has vowed that “not a drop of alcohol” will pass his lips until the end of March is brazenly asking complete strangers to buy him a pint.

Hartlepool Round Table Chairman Graeme Smith has been on the wagon since April last year in a bid to raise a whopping £10,000 for Hartlepool and District Hospice.

But despite sticking to his booze-free pledge, the self-confessed lover of “an occasional tipple or two” has so far only managed to raise just over half the cash.

And although Graeme’s total of almost £5,100 raised to date is impressive, it puts him well behind his £10,000 target with less than three months to go.

So the 40-year old married father-of-one is urging Hartlepool folk to “buy him a pint or two” by donating £3 per pint to the page he has set up on charity website Just Giving.

Writing on the page, Graeme said: “I am looking at raising £10,000 doing this (giving up drinking for a year). Yes, that’s a lot of money, but from people donating to help the Hospice to my friends contributing the cost of a pint on here instead of buying me one, I think it is a reachable target!”

Among the people who have already donated to Graeme’s fundraising push through the secure Just Giving website is Jim Peden, who has pledged £100 and suggested in the website’s comments thread that not drinking for a year is “the type of challange you sign up to after drinking.”

Middleton Grange shopping centre boss Mark Rycraft has also pledged to donate and left a message which reads: “Graeme, all things alcoholic banished for a year? Good luck buddy and I hope you raise your target for this fantastic charity.”

Graeme, who works as a harbour pilot, began his booze-free year when he became head of Hartlepool Round Table and had to undertake the traditional “Chairman’s Challenge”.

Fearing his Round table pals would dream up a challenge for him, Graeme elected to choose his own task and quickly came up with the idea of temporarily calling time on his tippling for the benefit of the Hospice, which is one of Graeme’s chosen charities for his year as head of the Round Table.

But while many people facing such a challenge would make a bid to avoid temptation by staying away from licenced premesis, Graeme has continued to attend black tie dinners in his capacity as Round Table Chairman even though he admits they “are, by their very nature, a good knees-up.”

And although Graeme couldn’t organise a booze-up in a brewery at the moment, or at least not for himself, he made the ultimate drinker’s sacrifice in October last year when he organised the Hartlepool Beer Festival at the Borough Hall on the Headland and drank nothing stronger than lemonade to donate £4,000 of the £12,000 takings to the hospice.

Graeme will finally end his year on the wagon and whet his whistle after his last Chairman’s speech on Saturday, March 31, at a social event to mark his year at the helm of the Round Table.

He told the Mail that he plans to have a pint of Murphys along with a large malt whiskey fellow Tabler Derek Wheatley has pledged to buy him if he completes his booze break and stays dry for the whole year.

But Graeme’s dearest wish is that he’ll be able to toast the raising of the full £10,000 to benefit what he says is the “fantastic cause” of Hartlepool and District Hospice, saying: “That really would be something to raise a glass to.”

Graeme’s Just Giving page can be found at www.justgiving.com/Graemesmith3

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Follow Tom Yeoman on Twitter @TomYHMail