Runner who raised thousands for GNAAS is our new community fundraiser

A runner who raised thousands of pounds from a lockdown rainbow challenge has now landed a job as a community fundraiser at the charity he was supporting.

Ben Hunt, 46, from Eaglescliffe, kickstarted his ‘Chasing Rainbows’ challenge in April 2020 to encourage people to get active and raise vital funds for the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS).

He said: “I have run several races for the charity including two Great North Runs and the Yorkshire Marathon in 2021, although the biggest charity challenge was the ‘Chasing Rainbows’ event that I started in lockdown in memory of my late friend Gerry Mullen, who GNAAS attended.”

One of his friends Jean Snaith, who has required the services of GNAAS in the past, inspired the challenge after Ben saw her crochet rainbow displayed in her window.


He kindly asked her to crochet one for him and came up with the idea of either doing a run, walk or cycle ride with it, take a photo, make a donation to GNAAS, then nominate others to take on the challenge.

The challenge was well received by the local community, but little did they know how far those rainbows would travel.

Ben said: “Thousands of miles were covered by participants, and Jean went on to make over 300 rainbows which travelled all over the world, landing in several countries, from America to Australia.”

Following the news that the Great North Run was cancelled in 2020, Ben decided to take part in the virtual version and set up a route which finishes at GNAAS’ HQ near Eaglescliffe.

Nearly 30 people took part in the run, including members of the charity’s critical care team and office staff.

He also organised a charity night at The Eagle Pub in Eaglescliffe with a raffle and auction and in total has raised nearly £12,000 for GNAAS since 2020.

Ben’s unwavering support for GNAAS culminated in him joining the charity as a community fundraiser for the North East last month, after a long and varied career in hospitality.

He said: “Prior to GNAAS I have worked in the hospitality sector for over 30 years from humble beginnings as a pot washer aged 15 at the Parkmore Hotel, to working all over the UK in some of the UK’s best hotels even working for the now King Charles III at his home in Highgrove.

“I applied for the role at GNAAS as I felt it was a calling for me to do a job for a charity close to my heart where I could use all I’ve learnt, and the skills gained to really ‘make a difference’ and as we say ‘save lives’.”

Ben’s new role at the charity will include representing GNAAS at external public events, engaging with existing and potential supporters, alongside delivering talks and presentations to promote the charity within the North East.

Reflecting on his first week, he said: “The stand out moment in my first week was the first community talk and cheque presentation we did in my work uniform and seeing the joy and pride people had for the money they had raised. It made me feel so lucky and proud to be a part of the team here.

“Also I must say coming in on day one to see one of Jean’s rainbows still hanging up in the back office made me smile and be proud of all ‘we’ achieved on that challenge for GNAAS.

“I really pinch myself when I come into work and walk up the stairs and see the ‘Together we are saving lives’ poster. As Confucius said ‘Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work another day in your life’.”

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