Time to push the boat out!

RNLI volunteers were celebrating today after the Echo's Launch a Lifesaver Appeal reached its £10,000 target.

Since it was launched this summer, donations have flooded in from across the UK in recognition of the lifesaving work carried out by our Sunderland crews.

Now the charity has enough to put seven volunteers at the Wearside station through 12 months of operational training.

That means your generosity has helped save lives.

From multi-nationals to market traders, businesses of all types and sizes have backed the campaign.

And schools, colleges, community groups as well as kind-hearted donors of all ages have also played a major part the fund-raising success.

Senior helmsman Paul Nicholson, an RNLI volunteer on Wearside, said: "Everyone involved with the lifeboat station at Sunderland is extremely grateful to the readers and staff of the Sunderland Echo who have supported the appeal.

"We are all totally amazed by the generosity of the people of Sunderland who have fully supported this appeal which will allow our volunteers to do the job which they enjoy, saving lives at sea."

The city's RNLI team has been the busiest on the East coast during the past 12 months, providing a vital lifesaving service.

But for volunteers to remain at the top of their game, the RNLI has to continually raise its own funds for crucial training.

In a bid to help the charity continue its work, the Echo kicked-off the Launch a Lifesaver campaign eight months ago.

"As less than 10 per cent of our volunteers come from a non-maritime professional background, it is vital for the charity to provide first class training to allow them to safely operate onboard our lifeboats," said Paul.

"The training which will be provided as a result of this appeal will allow our crews to provide a first class life saving service to the local community."

Bryn Hanson, from Fulwell, is one of many people who have called on the RNLI in recent years.The 40-year-old was rescued when he was windsurfing off Seaburn.

His equipment failed in a strong westerly wind and he was very quickly being blown offshore.

He scrambled into one of the boats, which was moored at Whitburn, and was picked up by the Sunderland's D-Class lifeboat."

"It's fantastic news that the appeal has reached its target," he said.

"Being a charity, the RNLI relies on donations and every little helps. They do an amazing job and it's important we recognise that continue to give them as much support as possible."

The Echo will continue to take donations for the Launch a Lifesaver Appeal until the end of the year. Additional funds will go towards the running costs of the Sunderland station.

To make a donation, send cheques to Sunderland Echo Launch a Lifesaver appeal, c/o James Johnston, Sunderland Echo, Echo House, Pennywell, Sunderland SR4 9ER.