As part of their annual charity campaign, staff from bus depots across the north east have smashed their targets this year and raised an amazing £30,000 for nine local charities by spreading some festive fun as they drove their buses during the run up to Christmas.

From Teesside to Hartlepool, Sunderland to South Shields and Newcastle, drivers at local bus operator Stagecoach North East dressed as Santa Claus while on duties, bringing a smile to the faces of young and old passengers alike and encouraging them to dig deep for their chosen charities.

Customers once again showed generosity in their thousands, donating £30,000 which was shared between nine charities – Daisy Chain, Alice House Hospice, St Benedict’s Hospice, Children North East, Tiny Lives, CLIC Sargent, Chloe and Liam Together Forever Trust, the Chronicle Sunshine Fund and Northumbria Blood Bikes.

To help boost the collections, staff handed out gifts including sweets and festive novelties, with the bus company contributing to the fundraising total. This year the Christmas Stagecoach charity bus visited Newcastle and Stockton, with the merrily dressed bus featuring specially designed festive vinyl coverings, and staff dressed as Santa Claus and his little helper ‘elves’ giving away festive freebies from ‘Santa’s Grotto’.

At the Teesside bus depot in Stockton, staff raised money for Daisy Chain, collecting £2,150 on board from the drivers. Daisy Chain is a unique charity which supports families affected by autism, providing a range of services, including advice, information and activity groups for the whole family from its farm in Norton. The charity also supports adults, with an adults’ club and an employability scheme.

52-year-old bus driver Neil English from Billingham, who has been a driver for 11 years, said: “It is an amazing amount of money that we collected over December and we would like to thank our passengers for giving as generously as they did on their travels and hope we made their journey a little more fun and festive. I really want to say a big thank you to everyone who has supported us as it is their kindness which makes the difference.”

The Teesside team also took part in Daisy Chain’s ‘Wear it Festive’ campaign, donning seasonal sweaters, with a great selection of winter wonderland woollies on show.

Angela Dee, community fundraiser at Daisy Chain said: “What a wonderful and festive contribution Stagecoach has made to raise funds to support families in the local area affected by autism. The value of fundraising in the community is immense and we are extremely grateful when people give their time and energy to help us and put a smile on so many faces both at Daisy Chain and in the community.”

In Newcastle, £6,404 collected on board from the Walkergate drivers for Children North East and Tiny Lives. Children North East supports families across the region to ensure children and young people grow up healthy and happy while The Tiny Lives Trust helps to care for premature and sick new-born babies and their families on the Neonatal Unit at the RVI, Newcastle.

Jeremy Cripps, Chief Executive of the charity Children North East which created life changing differences for more than 3,500 children and young people last year, said: “It’s great fun that Stagecoach bus drivers enter into the spirit of Christmas by dressing up as Santa and wonderful that passengers respond so generously for local charities like Children North East. Thank you too to Stagecoach who make it all possible.”

Louise Carroll, Community and Events Fundraiser for Tiny Lives, said: “We really can’t say thank you enough to all staff at Stagecoach, Walkergate for kindly choosing to support Tiny Lives for another fun-filled run up to Christmas on the buses. We’re so grateful to all the generous Stagecoach passengers for making this amazing total possible. This lovely donation will help us to continue our ongoing support to the babies, families and staff on the Neonatal Unit at the RVI.”

Steve Walker, Managing Director for Stagecoach North East, said: “We are always happy to support our drivers in their fundraising efforts and would like to commend them again on their dedication to making a difference during the festive period. I’d also like to thank all our passengers and the rest of the depot for giving so generously. Seeing Santa Claus driving the buses puts a smile on everyone’s face and is great fun for all involved.”