Thousands of pounds have been raised to support soldiers in memory of a much-loved Sunderland marine who was shot dead in Iraq two years ago.
Thanks to fund-raising skydives and a special charity evening, almost £7,000 has been generated in honour of dad-of-two Phil Harris.
Mr Harris, who grew up in the Red House area of the city, had served his country since his teens, serving in tours of Northern Ireland, Kosovo and Afghanistan.
The 37-year-old was working for a private security firm in Iraq at the time of his death.
He was shot and died following a night out in the city of Erbil two years ago yesterday.
Following his death, Mr Harris’s devastated family have found a way to channel their grief by setting up a charity in his memory to support servicemen and women affected by post traumatic stress disorder.
“We had a brilliant night and to raise as much money as we have is fantastic.”Mandy Smillie
Now, over £5,000 has been generated after a number of friends and family members took part in skydives from Shotton Airifled, in east Durham, while almost £2,000 was raised at a packed charity night at Hepworth and Grandage Social Club, in North Hylton.
Mr Harris’s loving sister Mandy, 42, said: “We had a brilliant night and to raise as much money as we have is fantastic.
“I can’t thank everyone who was involved in it enough, they’re all amazing.”
A host of Wearside businesses donated prizes for the night, including Martin Telfer Carpets, Richard Thoms Traditional Funeral Directors, Arabian Glow and Kings Jewellers.
Raffles and auctions saw a pair of signed boxing gloves by former world champion Ricky Hatton given away as well as passes to Fitness 200 gym in Roker.
Explaining where the money will go to, Mandy added: “We’re going to buy a luxury caravan so that ex-Forces people can have a seven-day break including VIP passes.
“We think it’s something that these people deserve.”
An inquest into Mr Harris’s death has been opened and adjourned by Sunderland coroner Derek Winter.
It is expected to resume following the conclusion of the Iraqi police investigation into the shooting.
Another fund-raising day for the charity will take place at Wearmouth Colliery Cricket Club on Monday, August 29, with entertainment for children including a bouncy castle.