Des Elliot, 74, is a long-time supporter of Derian House Children’s Hospice.
Des, who was a mental health nursing assistant for 22 years, is well-known for his horse and cart that travelled around Lancashire raising awareness of the hospice.
He is also behind the making of the hospice’s historic mascot – the Derian Dog.
“Over the years people would ask me, why do you do so much for Derian house?” Said Des.
“And I’d say – I’ve had two beautiful daughters and four beautiful grandkids, all healthy. I’m so grateful for that. I wanted to do something for those families that didn’t have that. I have met a lot of Derian parents over the years and hearing their stories – its gets to you. They are why I did it all.
“I’ve done all sorts of events, all different things.” Said Des.
“The first time I ever got involved with Derian House was when my friend was fundraising for the charity and he asked if I’d like to do a big walk with him. But I said no, I can’t walk that far, but – I do have a horse and carriage, I’ll do it with that! I’ve had horses all of my life, and it was Bobby the horse who would pull around the cart.
“So we went around all the villages in the Ribble Valley. It was brilliant. We raised about £3,000 overall. We went back to Derian House with the horse and carriage to present them with the cheque and I was smitten. I met all the staff – everybody, and that was it. I just loved the place and what they were doing. So, from that day to this, I’ve been supporting Derian House.
“My role over the years has been more about raising awareness, helping others to understand what the charity is all about.
“As time went on, I realized that Derian House didn’t have a mascot.” Said Des.
“So, I took it upon myself to make sure they had one. With the CEO’s go-ahead, I went over to a place in Leeds where they make all sorts of costumes and mascots for charity. And between us, we designed the Derian dog and had it made.”
When asked why a dog was chosen to represent the charity, Des said: “I think the idea might have been the CEO’s at the time – Trevor – he had a lot of input into it. But this big, fluffy friendly dog seemed right at the time, and that was that.
“And so the Derian Dog went out to all sorts of events.” Des continued.
“It has since been put into retirement and is now in a cupboard in my loft. However, I’m going to bring him back out of retirement for Derian’s 30th birthday celebrations so he can have a reunion with Derian’s current mascot – Derian Danni.
“I used to help organise and run the gala days on the pony field beside the hospice building. We would have meetings about what we were going to do, and who we were going to invite. On the field we used to have stalls doing all sorts going on – bat-the-rat, a tombola, all different things going on.
“One year I had a brain wave.” Said Des.
“I said what about getting all the mascots from local football clubs to come along and meet our Derian Dog at the gala and have a penalty shootout. The crowds went mad – they loved it. The first year we did it, I presented our mascot on the pitch with English footballer, Ronnie Clayton.
“I also did Kendal torchlight procession for two years – that was a big thing.” Continued Des.
“I did that with Charlie Dimmock – the gardener off television. We rode around Kendal in the original Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car together. They were playing the theme music really loud so the crowds could hear it, and by the end of the day my head was banging.
“I carried on with my horse and cart rides, but it came to a point for my horse Bobby to retire. That’s when I thought – what can I do next? So, I built a bus out of a Land Rover.”
Des continues to support Derian House to this day.
“When Derian House first opened, there were only two people doing all the fundraising and awareness raising. Just two! And it wasn’t enough. I think the hospice has grown and moved forward brilliantly. I will always shout about what that place does. It is an incredible charity that goes above and beyond for its families, and I’m sure it will continue to over the next 30 years.”