Bruce Evans, 59, of Windermere, South Lakeland, has been a Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) volunteer for nearly eight years.
Over the course of the average week, Bruce collects 140 collection tins from around the Lake District – and his work doesn’t just stop there.
Last year alone, volunteers contributed 1,590 hours of their time to helping to raise the money we need. We would not have been able to carry on without people like Bruce.
In January 2017, following a routine blood test, Bruce found out the heart-breaking news that he has terminal cancer.
He said: “I’ve been diagnosed with several terminal cancers. One of which is in my bones which means I’ve got mobility problems, but l use my volunteering as a reason to get out. It gives me something to do and it pleases me – I really enjoy it.
“Although I have cancer and medical problems, I just like to meet people and be appreciated for what I’m doing for GNAAS. Being appreciated goes a long way.”
Before Bruce was a volunteer, he spent his years as a service man in the Royal Navy working on bomb disposals. After taking early retirement he decided it was time to do something more fulfilling with his time.
He said: “I chose to be a volunteer for GNAAS because where I live and how rural it is, it’s very much needed here.
“It all really started when I raised money for the charity as a one off by doing the chill swim in one January in Lake Windermere in just trunks. After that, I got really interested and decided to carry on.
“I stay motivated by knowing that I’m doing a great job for GNAAS and they are benefiting from my role as a volunteer. That’s what keeps me going.”
When Bruce is volunteering, he divides his time between Ulverston, Grasmere, Windermere, Ambleside and Kendal.
He said: “I also cover all around Appleby and bits in between. Now that I’m retried if something comes up elsewhere and someone is on holiday, I can do an odd one there too which I’m fine with.
“I just get so much enjoyment out of volunteering. A lot of it is the appreciation. Also meeting people and talking to them to basically tell them what GNAAS does.”
Getting to know people is something that Bruce enjoys most about his role. While out and about in different areas he said he gets to meet a whole host of different people, and he’s built lasting relationships.
One of Bruce’s regular stops while collecting is the Flower Basket florist in Appleby. Owner, Sandra Dobson said: “Volunteers are amazing because without them there wouldn’t be any air ambulance as volunteers and donations from the people keep it in the air.
“When my daughter was 20, she had a bad car accident on Kendal road and if it hadn’t of been for GNAAS, she wouldn’t have survived as there was no time to get her to hospital.”
Bruce’s work doesn’t just stop at collecting tins either. He said: “I also give talks and do presentations and I even talk in primary schools. When you see kids smiling it makes your day.
“It is a fulfilling job whether you do tins or school talks or deal with big companies – it is all great. If you are interested in being a volunteer, please speak to someone as there’s so many roles you could do.”
Bruce doesn’t know just yet what the future holds for him, but he’s determined that despite having regular treatment and hospital visits, he will continue to volunteer for GNAAS.
He said: “I don’t think I will ever stop doing this, I’ll carry on for as long as I can, and I would totally recommend becoming a GNAAS volunteer.”
Our aircraft cover an area of about 8,000 square miles. We must raise more than £5m each year just to keep the service flying. We need the support of members of the communities we serve to fulfill a range of tasks in their areas.
At GNAAS, collection boxes provide a vital source of income for the charity while raising awareness of our work.
Become part of our volunteer ‘ground crew’ at the Great North Air Ambulance Service and play a vital role in keeping our aircraft flying. Click here to find out more.
Or, if you would like to give a home to one of our collection boxes, please click here.