A 90-year-old war veteran has inspired a transport firm to choose Francis House Childrens Hospice as its charity of the year after an early morning dip at a 16th century Normandy chateau. Phil Hitchen, managing director of bus and coach hire business Belle Vue Manchester, had taken a group from the Stockport and District Normandy Veterans Association to France to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day in June last year.


The group was staying at a chateau in the village of Canisy, where Phil and Harold Addie were enjoying a 6am swim when they began chatting. Harold, who lives in Baguley, Wythenshawe, has been a supporter and fundraiser for Francis House for 20 years. Phil said: After chatting with Harold for just 10 minutes, I was blown away. Hes one of the nicest guys you could meet and an inspiration. He is 90 and does all sorts of charity work, especially for Francis House. His stories about the place touched my heart and I couldnt help thinking we could contribute something, so we have now chosen Francis House as our charity of the year. We are planning numerous fund-raising events, including a sponsored bicycle ride to Blackpool and a sportsmans dinner.


Francis House provides care and support to hundreds of children, teenagers and young adults with life-limiting conditions. Its annual running costs of £3.6m equivalent to almost £10,000 per day are funded almost entirely through public support, with only a small proportion provided by the government. Peter Forster, fundraising manager at Francis House, said: Were delighted to receive support from Belle Vue Manchester and are all excited at the companys plans to raise funds for Francis House. Our thanks also go to Harold for his dedicated commitment to Francis House over the past two decades. He always has the hospice in his thoughts. Harolds fundraising activities for Francis House down the years have included abseiling the North Stand at Old Trafford, and walking from the west coast of Wales to the east coast of England with his pet Jack Russell, Snowy. Widower Harold, a retired electrician, currently volunteers in the kitchens and on the reception desk at the hospice on Parrswood Road, Didsbury, south Manchester. He said: Im thrilled that Belle Vue has chosen Francis House as its charity of the year. The money it raises will make a real difference to the hospice.


Charities supported previously by Belle Vue include Help the Aged, the Christie and the Princes Trust. Belle Vues charity initiatives are managed by Jen Williams, an actress and comedienne who has starred in Coronation Street, Emmerdale, Hollyoaks and more than 20 films and TV dramas. Jen joined Belle Vue earlier this year.