Christmas arrives at the Bridges in Sunderland as families raise hundreds of pounds for charity in Reindeer Dash

Antlers, red noses and Christmas jumpers were on show at the Bridges Shopping Centre, as nearly 100 people took part in the annual Reindeer Dash to raise “hundreds of pounds” for charity.

Sunday morning (November 27) saw children and parents complete two circuits of the shopping centre, led by Wishee Washee from this year’s Empire Theatre pantomime, Aladdin, while Santa Claus himself was on hand to give out medals.

Participants arriving at the start were greeted by two giant reindeer while a festive pre-race warm-up was led by Club Zest Fitness Studio. Helping lead the limbering up was SAFC mascot Samson the cat.

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Twins Kiera and Finnley Wilson, both 11, took first and second place, with the Red Sky Foundation, which supports cardiac care across the North East, a cause close to the siblings’ hearts.

Finnley said: “The best thing is raising money for charity as my great grandmother – Joyce Dunn - had a heart attack and someone who had been trained by the Red Sky Foundation saved her life.”

Kiera said: “It was great to come first and to beat my brother.”

Mum, Anne-Marie Wilson, 38, from Houghton-le-Spring, added: “The Red Sky Foundation do such a fantastic job in supplying defibrillators and providing training if a person collapses.

"When my grandmother had a heart-attack, fortunately there was someone on hand who knew how to do CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).”

Reindeer dashers on the start line with Wishee Washee and Samson the cat.
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The Foundation’s founder, Sergio Petrucci, was also taking part in the event as well as running a demonstration on how to carryout CPR.

He said: “It’s great to raise money for the Foundation, but today is also about enabling the children to get some exercise, learn about how to save lives, and getting in the Christmas spirit.”

Roy Hammonds, 58, from Hebburn has brought his grandchildren to all four events.

Twins Finnley and Kiera Wilson, both 11, with their medals, alongside Samson the cat.
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He said: “Both the Red Sky Foundation and Foundation of Light are fantastic charities and the children always have a great time.”

Granddaughter Erin Lavery, six, said: “I really enjoyed the run and meeting Wishee Washee. The best bit was doing the warm-up with all the Christmas songs.”

Brother Zach, 11, added: “It gives you a real sense of pride and it’s good to know you’re raising money for a good cause.”

For many dashers, the run marked the start of the Festive Season, including the Murphy family from South Shields.

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Participants getting ready to take part in the Reindeer Dash.

Mum, Michelle, 38, said: “We saw the Dash on Facebook and we thought it would be a great event to get into the Christmas spirit, which is why I’ve been running in my Christmas jumper.”

Son Matthew, five, added: “I enjoyed dressing as a reindeer and it was really exciting to meet Santa.”

The annual Dash is organised by Sunderland Business Improvement District, which is looking to increase footfall in the city centre.

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CEO Sharon Appleby said: “It’s great to see people getting in the festive spirit and raising money for two fantastic causes, but we also hope the families taking part in the race will then spend a bit of time visiting the shops and food outlets here in the Bridges.”

Runners under 12 paid £4.50 while adults had fee of £6.50, with proceeds going to the charities. In total, 91 people participated in the Dash.

Roy Hammonds, 58, alongside grandchildren Lucas Strasenburgh, seven, Erin Lavery, six, William Corner, seven, and Zach Lavery, 11.
Red Sky Foundation founder, Sergio Petrucci, alongside Sunderland Business Improvement District CEO, Sharon Appleby.