Ottery elves’ Christmas challenge in memory of ‘kind and lovely’ colleague Rob

A chain reaction was sparked by Ottery St Mary garden centre staff keen to honour their colleague who died from a brain tumour.

Otter Garden Centre staff are gearing up to cycle or run dressed as festive elves, in a bid to raise funds for the Brain Tumour Support and Alzheimer’s Society charities.

Staff are hosting the seasonal fundraiser in memory of ‘kind and lovely’ Rob Gillingham – the garden centre Santa Express driver – who died earlier this year from a brain tumour.

Colleague Helen Patterson, who annually appears as an elf in the garden centre’s Christmas grotto, plans to cycle from Exeter to work in Ottery, dressed in her costume to raise funds for the charities.

Her enthusiasm for the fundraiser sparked her colleagues to join forces, with more than 40 staff dressed as elves expected to run or cycle.

Helen, who had a brain tumour which was removed in 2017, affecting her sight and leaving her with a titanium plate in her skull, said: “I was so disappointed not to be an elf this year that I thought this would be a great way to dress up and raise money at the same time.”

She added: “I’m thrilled that so many people from Otter are getting behind the charity – out of something sad has come something good.”

The event Elf Sparkle Cycle Day event hopes to raise £1,000 for charities Brain Tumour Support and Alzheimer’s Society.

Brain Tumour Support volunteers will be at the garden centre, raising money, as the elves cycle and run.

Garden centre manager John Giblin said the team joined forces with Helen after loaning her a costume from the grotto.

He said: “We realised we could join in with the fundraising for Brain Tumour Support in memory of our colleague Rob, so we started encouraging staff members to get involved.

“We now have more than forty signed up to cycle, walk or run to work dressed as elves.

“It’s a great way to use of our elf costumes to bring some festive cheer as we’re unable to run our grotto this year.”

The garden centre has launched a JustGiving page to raise funds for the Brain Tumour Support charity. See here to donate.

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