JOHN CAMERON: Our great community spirit lives on

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With so many negative stories reported these days about Britain’s ‘decaying’ society I would like to share some local stories to prove ‘community’ has not departed this green and pleasant land and its spirit is regularly seen among the people, of our great city.

Local businessman John Madden, who owns several furniture shops in Southsea, has been behind several recent social media appeals to raise funds for local people in need.

When a local lady came into his shop recently, visibly shaken having just had her purse stolen, John was the first to donate and his appeal raised enough money to cover her monthly bills.

The extremely grateful lady has since posted an online letter of thanks John and intends to completely repay the same sum to local charities.

John, along with local publican John Garratt, landlord of the Phoenix public house in Hilsea and founding fellow member of the Phoenix Scooter Club, recently organised several events including raffles and a scooter ‘rideout’ raising £3,000 for local girl Natalie Turner who is currently undergoing treatment for bone cancer.

Diagnosed in 2014 with cancer in her ankle, and with chemotherapy failing to completely stop the cancer, Natalie had to undergo a below-the-knee amputation in 2015 though this spirited youngster continues to stay positive and enjoy life as much as possible, including a recent family trip to Alton Towers courtesy of the efforts of and kindness of John Madden, John Garrett and our local community.

Closer to home, for me at least, was the terrible news on June 11 that an old friend and Pompey fan, Andy Bache, was one of the two fans critically injured when Russian football supporters launched unprovoked attacks against English supporters in Marseille.

I received a late-night phone call from my cousin informing me that Andy, known to his friends as Pepe, was in an induced coma.

My wife and I have known Pepe for around 30 years, as a group of friends we played football, pool, and cricket together and he also attended our wedding, so naturally we were both shocked and concerned at the news.

On Sunday morning, when I turned to social media for any news, my spirits were lifted with the dozens of messages Pepe and his family had received from friends and strangers.

An over-40s benefit football match is being organised for June 28 at Priory School, and an auction-raffle night at the Queball Club in Goldsmith Avenue on July 1.

I never was that good at football but I have offered my services as auctioneer.

Local band Emptifish are planning a benefit gig and, evidence that community can exist between rival teams, more than £1,000 has been donated to the fund from Southampton FC Supporters Club.

Andy and his family also now face huge medical bills and other expenses.

One thing is for certain, when Andy ‘Pepe’ Bache returns home, he can count on the care and support of many friends, both old and new.

If you would like to make a donation, the ‘Justgiving’ webpage is ‘pepefrompompey.’