On bikes for bus appeal

KIND-HEARTED fundraisers got on their bikes to help raise funds for a much-needed replacement PlayBus.

The Mail launched its Buy A Bus appeal to raise enough cash to buy the charitable Hartlepool Families First a replacement for its outdated 25-year-old Leyland Olympian bus and all manner of events have been staged to raise cash.

The double-decker is struggling to keep to its timetable and provide a reliable service because of mechanical problems, including a dodgy gearbox.

The generator has now packed up and staff are having to borrow one to try and keep the bus on the road.

It has proved a lifline for children with more than 5,000 youngsters using it last year.

It operates in areas where it is most needed and for some youngsters it is their only chance to play in a safe and supervised environment.

The PlayBus is only used when static making it safe for children to use, but it is facing an ever-increasing struggle to take to the road on a regular basis and keep to its timetable.

No target is being set for the appeal as the charity will be grateful to buy the best bus it can with whatever money is raised, but suitable replacements are on sale for around 12,000.

The appeal has now been given a hefty boost thanks to the efforts of seven Hartlepool men including two PCSOs and a firefighter who cycled from the coastal Cumbrian town of Whitehaven to Hartlepool. They covered the 148 miles in two days with an overnight stop in Cumbria.

A number of other fundraising events have been held including an appearance by Santa Claus and an impromptu appearance by a "penguin" in Hartlepool Borough Council chamber and a fundraising Masked Ball at the Staincliffe Hotel.

One anonymous pensioner donated 2,000 despite only living on his pension and savings and Hartlepool Round Table raised a magnificent 3,500 at its annual beer festival.

Staff at town firm Niramax held a weight-loss challenge under the guidance of Hartlepool Arriba! Wellness Club coach Jackie Liddle with the company pledging cash for every stone that staff lost.

Hartlepool Families First manager Paul Thompson said: "From cycle rides to charitable weight loss classes and penguins to bank staff it is brilliant to see people rallying to the cause.

"The generosity of people in Hartlepool is unquestionable and it would be brilliant if we could raise enough to buy a replacement before the current one gives up completely.

"Thousands of children rely on it and it really is a lifeline to them.

"The appeal seems to have galvanised people andbeing able to get the right bus would make all of the difference."

We are now hoping for that one final push that could help us hit a target of around 12,000 and get the bus that the town's youngsters deserve.

For more information about the appeal contact Paul Watson, head of news at the Mail, on (01429) 239361 or email paul.watson@northeast-press.co.uk