Pilgrims Maintenance Engineer Gary Kirton, feels honoured to be named in the top four nominees for Fundraiser of the Year in the ITV Meridian, Pride of Britain Awards.
Gary from Kingsnorth, Ashford has been fundraising ever since the late 1980s when he started a sweepstake on the Grand National horse race, which grew into a club that started supporting lots of charities. Over the years, Gary has raised almost £300,000 for charitable causes including Pilgrims Hospices where he has worked as an integral part of their maintenance team for 12 years, and has raised between £70,000 and £80,000 for the charity that’s so close to his heart.
Gary said: “I was completely surprised and very honoured when I heard I’d been nominated for a Pride of Britain Award. I must say a massive thank you to those who nominated me!
“I’ve been fundraising for so long, it’s a very important part of my life, and I know my efforts are helping to make a difference to people who really need support. My wife Marilyn (Maz) is my rock; she also works as a domestic team leader for Pilgrims Hospices. I couldn’t have done most of the fundraising events without her, she’s always supportive and on hand and has joined me on many challenges including the London Marathon in 2018.
“I have some amazing memories, and incredible experiences from running 12k dressed as Penguins with Maz, to sportsmen’s dinners with celebrity guests, Peter Shilton and Frank Bruno.
“I’m currently undertaking a UK racecourse tour, visiting 41 different courses and planning to finish at Aintree in December; to date this has raised nearly £20,000.”
One particularly special memory would be Pilgrims bingo evenings when friends, supporters and colleagues came to the Ashford hospice community rooms to be part of the fun. On some occasions, patients and their families joined us to enjoy the entertainment. Over the six years of hospice bingo, it raised £35,000 for hospice care.
Gary fell very ill in 2007 and had major heart surgery at the William Harvey Hospital.
He said: “I owe them my life, and will always be grateful for their care, and for Maz and her quick reactions when contacting the doctors. Without her, the outcome could have been very different. After recovering, I was even more determined to continue to raise funds for important causes, and I’m inspired by so many people who achieve such great things. More recently I’ve become great friends with Bob Champion MBE/OBE who is so inspirational to cancer sufferers. Bob fought against cancer in 1979 and came back to win the greatest horse race in the world, the Grand National on Aldaniti in 1981, showing cancer can be beaten.
“One particularly special memory would be Pilgrims bingo evenings when friends, supporters and colleagues came to the Ashford hospice community rooms to be part of the fun. On some occasions, patients and their families joined us to enjoy the entertainment. Over the six years of hospice bingo, it raised £35,000 for hospice care.”
He added: “I’ve always worked in hands-on professions, my work at the hospice is full of problem-solving and I’m very proud to be part of such a great team.”
When Gary has time to relax, he enjoys spending time with his step daughters Charlotte and Kirsty and the grandchildren, some well-deserved nights out with his wife Maz and watching sport on TV.
Congratulations on your nomination Gary, you are truly an amazing fundraiser, we are all very proud of you here at Pilgrims Hospices.