‘I’ll carry on where my dad left off’

A FUNDRAISER has vowed to follow in her father’s footsteps by devoting herself to helping soldiers and their families in their hour of need.

Sian Cameron took on the role of Poppy Appeal Organiser for Hartlepool at short notice last year following the death of her dad, Ian.

Poppy sales co-ordinator Sian Cameron.

Poppy sales co-ordinator Sian Cameron.

Cameron Taxis boss Ian died on holiday in Spain in August last year, aged 61.

He had devoted seven years to raising cash for the Royal British Legion before Remembrance Day.

But despite never having taken an interest in her dad’s good work, and still having the taxi business to oversee, daughter Sian had decided “within a week” that she would take over from him and “do him proud”.

Sian’s friends thought the task before last year’s Remembrance Day would be a one-off as she struggled to come to terms with the loss of her dad.

But the 29-year-old office administrator said he was “so proud” of the part he played in helping the Hartlepool Royal British Legion look after veterans of the Armed Forces, it seemed only right to carry on in his honour and make the role permanent.

It comes as the Royal British Legion launches its annual poppy campaign nationwide.

Sian said: “I’m lucky to have such good friends. They dragged me through dad’s death kicking and screaming and backed me up when I said I was going to take on selling the poppies.

“They all admitted afterwards that they thought I’d just do it once and get it out of my system.

“But although last year was my tribute to him and helped me get through a horrendous time by giving me something to focus on, I couldn’t bear the thought of just anyone doing it and so it was my intention right from the start to take it on for good.”

Ian, who also has two step-children and was a granddad of four, first became appeal organiser in 2003, taking the reigns from community stalwarts Doreen Mee and Freda Allision, who together had each given more than 20 years to the cause and raised thousands of pounds.

Freda died in 2009 and after Ian’s death Doreen said: “We thought we made it a success, but it’s nothing to what Ian does now.”

Doreen and Freda were averaging around £12,000 each year from poppy sales around the town. But in 2009 Ian had raised that total to a whopping £43,000.

Aided by a collection at her dad’s funeral, Sian last year managed to better that total by £1,000.

Paying tribute to her dad, Sian said Ian made a “massive task” look easy and turned it into a year round, and international, enterprise.

She added: “Dad made sure there were poppy collecting boxes around Hartlepool all year around, not just in the run-up to Remembrance Sunday.

“He roped in several bars in his favourite holiday spot of Malgrat de Mar, in Spain, into collecting for the appeal.

“Dad loved his holidays, but from October onwards he wouldn’t entertain the thought of going away or even having a day out.

“His home in Wolviston was full of poppies and collecting tins and he’d spend hours tallying up the serial numbers and distributing them around the town.

“Then he’d spend his Saturdays selling them in Middleton Grange Shopping Centre. He used to drag me along sometimes, but I must admit it was under sufferance.  “But when I started selling them myself last year I could see exactly where he was coming from. I think it’s the generosity of Hartlepool people that really got to dad and it certainly gets to me.”

Sian’s home in Wolviston looks just like Ian’s used to be as she gears up for her first full year in charge of raising cash to help Hartlepool veterans of the world’s many conflicts through the Royal British Legion.

But plucky Sian is undaunted by the prospect and feels sure dad is watching over her.

She said: “I’m sure he’s floating about somewhere, keeping an eye on me and helping me get it right.”

● Mail view: Page 8

Volunteers, or anyone wanting

to back the appeal, can

contact Sian on 07787570601