THE MAN behind Chorley’s annual Santa dash up Rivington Pike has been honoured as a “pillar of the community” after raising more than £130,000 to help sick children.
Neil Hailwood, 49, from Chorley, has dedicated his free time to raising money for Derian House Children’s Hospice over the last nine years, after seeing first-hand the impact the charity makes.
“Derian is where my heart is” said Neil, who acts as one of the charity’s ambassadors, raising money and encouraging others to get involved.
“It all began when a friend of mine lost his son to cancer. I still find it difficult to talk about. It shocked me to think that this young person would never have the same chances that I have had in my life.
“When I learned more about Derian House and the incredible work it does I knew I wanted to do something to help. I promised myself that every year I would always put time aside to raise funds for those children who need it. I stopped spending my nights watching telly and started planning fundraising events. We’ve raised exactly £132,338.72.”
Neil is best-known for his annual Jingle All the Way event that sees men, women, children and dogs make the 15-mile trek from Chorley, all the way to the top of Rivington Pike, and back again every November.
“For me, there’s nothing better than getting to see hundreds of people dressed as Santa hike 15 miles up a hill,” said Neil, who lives with his wife and two children and is kept busy with his full-time job at construction group Morgan Sindall.
Last year’s event – in November 2021 – was the first time the event could take place since the COVID pandemic and 600 Santas took part raising over £26,000 for Derian House.
“I remember waking up to finding 600 Santa outfits being delivered on my driveway!” Neil smiled. “We’re now in the sixth year and every year the event gets bigger and better and I become more and more amazed at the level of support we get from local businesses and volunteers.”
Over the years Neil has walked and cycled miles for charity in all kinds of weather.
“I don’t do things by halves,” he said. “I remember doing a Walk of Life nine years ago. It was a whopping 60 miles from Chorley to Blackpool – I’ve still got blisters!”
During Covid-19 he even held online events to help the charity keep running.
“We used Facebook live to host a Play Your Cards Right, live in isolation,” said Neil, “We managed to raise around £3,000, which is a huge achievement – especially during a global pandemic.”
Neil and his Jingle All the Way team were presented with a prize cheque at a celebration at Derian House on Saturday, 14 March and received a surprise visit from the Mayor of Chorley.
Mayor of Chorley, Councillor Steve Holgate, said: “I was so pleased to be able to thank Neil, who has raised more than £100,000 for Derian House families.
“The work people like Neil do is vital in supporting these important causes. He really is a pillar of our community.”
Jingle All The Way VI will take place on Saturday, 12 November 2022. To get the latest updates on this year’s event, visit: https://www.facebook.com/JingleAllTheWayDerianHouse/