Running legend Steve Cram has hung the first bauble on a dedication Christmas tree in memory of his much-missed aunt.
Olympic medallist and former world champion Steve, now a commentator with the BBC, placed the decoration on the 2017 St Benedict’s Dedication Christmas Tree in the Bridges shopping centre in tribute to Joy Lynch.
Joy was a regular volunteer at races organised by Steve’s company, including the Run Sunderland events, where she recruited a team of friends and family to hand out water and cheer on runners on Ryhope Road.
She fought a brave battle against cancer, but passed away in October last year.
St Benedict’s Hospice was the official charity partner for the 2017 Siglion Sunderland City Half Marathon and 10K, and will be again in 2018.
The public will now be able to make a donation and add their own baubles to the tree in the lead up to Christmas, with all of the money raised going to support the work of the hospice.
Last year’s tree raised £10,000 for the charity.
Steve said: “Aunty Joy was a very special lady and we miss her terribly.
“It’s been great to make a donation and remember her on the Dedication Tree in the Bridges shopping centre.
“This is a brilliant way to support the wonderful work done by St Benedict’s Hospice and I hope that the tree raises a lot of money in the lead up to Christmas.”
Catrina Flynn, head of fundraising at St. Benedict’s Hospice, added: “On behalf of St Benedict’s Hospice, I was delighted to welcome Steve to our Dedication Tree and we are grateful to him for coming along to launch our 2017 appeal by putting a dedication on the tree in memory of his late aunt.
“The Dedication Tree Appeal is one of our most popular fundraising initiatives, but as well as raising funds for the hospice it also offers people the chance to remember someone they have lost at a time of the year which can often be quite difficult.
“We are so grateful to the Bridges for once again allowing us to be there.”
The Dedication Tree is located near Primark in the Bridges, where shoppers can make a donation to the team of St Benedict’s volunteers and write out a personal message on a bauble in memory of a loved one, and then hang it on the tree.
Samantha Czwordon, marketing and communications manager at the Bridges, said: “Last year, our really generous visitors took time out of their Christmas shopping to donate a huge amount of money, and I am sure that they will do the same again this time.
“It’s a lovely, poignant addition to the centre and we were delighted that Steve was able to add the first bauble.”