The Percy Hedley Foundation has said a fond farewell to North East fundraiser Des Bustard, who has retired after 21 years with the charity.
Des, 65, has raised more than £15million for the Foundation, which has supported disabled children, young people and adults with cerebral palsy and communication difficulties for 64 years.
The Northern Irishman has played an instrumental role in the development of services provided by Percy Hedley, which now serves over 1000 disabled people and their families in the region.
From serving teas and coffees inside the charity’s Great North Run tent to writing applications to trusts and grant-making organisations, Des has been the heart and soul of fundraising at Percy Hedley ever since he started back in August 1995.
“After meeting my wife, Jane, in 1987, I moved across to the North East from County Fermanagh and fell in love with the region. I worked as a fundraiser for Norcare, but after six years there I was looking for a job with an organisation that had a long term vision,” Des explained.
“I applied to Percy Hedley and went along to their summer fayre to see what the place was all about. From there I saw Percy Hedley had that potential.
“I met Stephen Darke, whose parents Molly and Stephen were some of the founding parents of Percy Hedley School and they have been my inspiration ever since.
“Listening to the challenges they faced and how Percy Hedley had helped them as a family was captivating.
“I was first fundraiser here. There was a lot of unmet need for services, while a lot of the buildings were also in need of repairs and renovations. It was a long-term project that really appealed to me.
Des was the catalyst behind funding for the expansion of residential and day centre facilities, Percy Hedley School and the construction of Percy Hedley Sports Academy, which provides the opportunity for disabled people to take part in sport.
More recently, he secured funding from The Ballinger Trust and The Bradbury Foundation for a state of the art hydrotherapy pool and children’s residential unit, which opened in March.
“I’m proud of what we have achieved and the network of support we have built together. Percy Hedley is now a central part of society in the region,” Des said.
“To see the joy on the children’s faces because we have helped them do things for themselves, things they never thought they would be able to do or have the opportunity to do, is fantastic.
“Parents say what we do has transformed their lives and that is so important.
“There is a certain Percy Hedley attitude to life. It’s about achievement, but by doing so through fun. It’s the most motivational place I’ve worked and the best job I’ve ever had.
“I found my home at Percy Hedley. It is a family and everyone works hard to help others. It hasn’t just been a job to me, it’s been a purpose and it’s been a life.”
Carole Harder, chief executive at The Percy Hedley Foundation, paid tribute to the Des. She said: “I would like to thank Des for the fantastic contribution he has made over the last 21 years to The Percy Hedley Foundation.
“His dedication and ability to engage people across the North East to support us, whilst putting the Fun into Fundraising, has been inspirational.
“We wish him well on his retirement but know he is going to continue to be a life-long supporter and help us in our future plans.”