THE goodwill of a local firm has brought a smile to families who are going through tough times.
The Car Finance Company, based in Portsmouth and started eight years ago by former Royal Navy detective Mark Smith, awarded £5,000 to Hannah’s Holiday Home earlier this year.
The award, through the firm’s Friends in Finance project, has paid for 20 families to go on a free holiday.
The charity has three holiday homes, including one in Hayling Island, and caters for families who have children with cancer or life-limiting illnesses.
It was set up in memory of Hannah Westbrook who died in 2004 from Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Earlier this year the charity’s third holiday home in Milford-on-Sea was unveiled on what would have been Hannah’s 21st birthday.
Mark wanted to see the work of the charity for himself and visited the luxury caravan at Hayling Island Holiday Park, off Manor Road.
He enjoyed a long chat and tea with Hannah’s mum Pam Marshall and one of her volunteers, Claire Cook.
Mark said: ‘It’s been quite eye-opening because this is something most people are unaffected by.
‘It’s given us a good chance to see how the money will be used.
‘There’s some active encouragement to raise some more money for charities.’
The winners of the company’s grant scheme were chosen by employees – and many were moved to tears by the stories they read.
The charity had asked for £1,000 but the panel was so moved by its story that it was given £5,000.
Mark added: ‘There were so many heart-wrenching stories that we came across.
‘It can be quite difficult to stand out from the crowd, but in this case the charity stood out because of the personal commitment.
‘This is absolutely run by giving back to the people who need it rather than running a business-like charity.’
Pam, from Horndean, said: ‘It will sponsor 20 families to stay in our holiday homes.
‘This year has been our busiest year – we’ve had 105 children with cancer and life-limiting illnesses have a break away with us.
‘So to be able to sponsor 20 is absolutely brilliant.
‘It will make such a difference to their lives.
‘Flicking through our visitors’ books, you can see what a difference a break from the hospital means to families.’
Claire, from Warblington, said she loved her job.
‘It’s the best anti-depressant in the world,’ she said.
The firm’s award scheme has helped several other local charities, including Havant-based Beat the Bullies, which was awarded £10,000.
Mark added: ‘I would urge any business based in Portsmouth, Southsea or Hampshire to get involved in our Friends in Finance project.
‘It covers multiple charities and gives lots of small charities the chance to attract funding without too much difficulty.’