A FUNDRAISING group which has collected almost £80,000 for a charity supporting patients and families affected by terminal illness is celebrating its fourth anniversary.

Bishop Auckland Marie Curie Fundraising Group met this week to mark the occasion and thank all those who have helped their cause.

In just four years the 15-strong team has collected £77,448 through a number of events and activities.

Elizabeth Varley, committee chair, said: “We collect from a really wide area as far as Eastgate and Stanhope, to Shildon, Spennymoor, Ferryhill, Bishop Auckland, Crook., Willington, Hunwick, Howden-le-Wear and Wolsingham.

“We just want to say thank you to the people of South West Durham for their generosity.

“Hearing the stories from people who have used Marie Curie Nurses is always emotional for us and them.”

The group launched in December, 2013, but had its inauguration in January, 2014, after three members spotted an advert in The Northern Echo calling for collectors to come forward to help Marie Curie in its fundraising mission.

A meeting was held by the three members, including Mrs Varley, and they took on committee positions.

More people were present at the next meeting and the group has continued to grow.

Now the fundraisers meet monthly at Bishop Auckland Fire Station, where they came together on Tuesday to celebrate their achievement.

Cash is collected through two annual tea or garden parties, a curry night, social gatherings for the group and through supermarkets including Asda at Spennymoor and Bishop Auckland.

Funds have also been boosted thanks to Poundland and Superdrug which have backed the charity.

The group is even being helped out by one of its youngest supporters, schoolboy Zak Hull who donates 50p from his pocket money weekly.

Zak was inspired by his mother, Lynsey Hull, who keeps one of the group’s Marie Curie Collection boxes in her cafe, the Dairy Barn Ice Cream Parlour and Tea Rooms close to the family’s home in North Bitchburn, near Crook.

“Everybody works very hard and members all want to know what the next thing is that we are doing,” said Mrs Varley. “We also have a lot of fun and it is a very boisterous group.”

She added her thanks to Bishop Auckland Fire Station.

For more information about the group call Mrs Varley on 01388-606075.