DESPITE being hit by lockdown restrictions as a result of the Coronavirus crisis, the Francis House Easter knitted chick appeal proved as popular as ever and raised an incredible £30,000 for the Didsbury hospice that supports children and teenagers with life-limiting conditions.
In normal times, knitters from across the country are encouraged to send chicks and bunnies to the hospice for sale in local schools, offices and business venues.
However, large numbers of chicks left over from last year’s appeal meant that hospice organisers concentrated their efforts on selling their existing stock. Each hand-crafted chick is filled with a creme egg, and with the help of supporters and supermarkets, more than 18,000 eggs were sourced and donated.
Rachel Astill, fundraising officer at Francis House, said:
“We were absolutely thrilled with the response to our appeal this year. We didn’t think anyone would find time for our chicks this Easter with all the uncertainty in the air. But we needn’t have worried – the chicks were as popular as ever, and dozens of supporters generously offered to help however they could!”
Finance director Sarah Walker Sargent, 38, from Bramhall, delivered and sold hundreds of chocolate-filled chicks after teaming up with her friend Kirstie McGrath, founder of local community group Helping Hands Bramhall.
“Ever since I was young, I have always been surrounded by stories of the amazing work that is achieved at Francis House. I have always tried to promote their work as a charity wherever possible and make regular donations, I got involved in the chick appeal around four years ago.
“We set ourselves a target of raising £500 and quickly became inundated with sales as we were offering to hand deliver.”
The fundraising soon became a family affair with Sarah and Kirstie’s children helping to stuff the chicks with crème eggs and assist with deliveries. Between working and homeschooling, they managed to raise almost £1,500.
Husband and wife Rita and Phil Andrew were the first to step up as volunteer ‘chick stuffers’ by tirelessly filling more than five thousand chicks from their home in Northwich.
Rita, a former sales rep for Mars and Phil, a computer network designer, both now retired, drove to the hospice on four separate occasions to load up the car with chicks, bunnies and creme eggs.
“I am a knitter, and with no need to make anything this year, I still wanted to help, so we both offered to stuff chicks. It gave us something to do whilst remaining at home, and we filled around 1,500 chicks at a time.
“Our dining room table was covered, and after counting them all out into boxes of 50, we would drop them back. It wasn’t a competition, we just used to sit down and say to ourselves, ‘let’s get this done’ we were happy to help and will carry on supporting Francis House.”
Didsbury mum Rachael Calvo soon followed suit, continuously collecting and returning chicks by the crateload to help the team keep on top of the mounting orders. Among the businesses happy to help were family-run garage John Delany Motors of Stockport, who bought 200 chicks for their staff and customers.
Director Brittany Delany said:
“We were proud to support Francis House in their annual Easter Chick Appeal. As non-essential shops were closed, we helped to distribute the knitted chicks to support the local charity and enjoyed giving a little ‘eggstra’ to our customers at Easter.”
“Our fundraising team is still operating on a skeleton staff, so we desperately needed those extra pairs of hands to make it all happen. We want to send a huge thank you to everyone who came to our aid this year, making the appeal a great success under very difficult circumstances.
“We are looking forward to next Easter when we hope our fantastic body of knitters will be keen to spring back into action, ensuring we have plenty of stock for a bumper year!”
Each fluffy chick or bunny sold for £1 or £2 each, and the money raised goes towards the £12,900 a day needed to provide care and support for more than 500 families from across Greater Manchester.
Anyone wishing to find out about the hospice’s summer knitting contest can visit: www.francishouse.org.uk/knitoff.