Frankie Johns completes first challenge
IT was a family affair when champion fundraiser Frankie Johns kicked off his latest challenge.
The singer, whose real name is John Billitteri, has pledged to raise an ambitious £1 million for the charity Dementia UK.
His campaign got off to a flying start after Frankie enlisted the help of family and close friends to take part in a sponsored 10k walk across the Downs.
And although it took place on one of the hottest days of the year, the group managed the arduous trek with aplomb.
Frankie, 59, has already raised thousands of pounds for Help for Heroes but following the death of his mother-in-law Barbara Fudge he decided to support a charity which helps families affected by dementia.
Barbara, 81, who was from Barton Hill, had suffered from dementia and spent her last days at Saffron Gardens in Whitehall, where she received specialist help.
Admiral nurses from Dementia UK gave her family support and advice to help them understand Barbara's illness and offer practical solutions.
Following Barbara's death on March 21 Frankie felt it was a fitting tribute to his beloved mother-in-law to raise money to help the charity continue its good work.
Not one to shy away from a tough challenge, Frankie is aiming to collect one million pound coins through a series of events and activities.
He will also draw attention to the cause by riding his bike through the streets of Bristol where people can throw money into a trailer attached to the back. The Downs walk was the campaign's launch event and, although the final figure is yet to be confirmed, it looks likely to hit £1,000.
Frankie's niece, Gemma Saunders, persuaded her employer Barclays Bank to double any amount up to £1,000, giving them a grand total of at least £2,000.
"The walk was fantastic and the weather was lovely. It wasn't a really long walk but the sun just seemed to drain us. We all managed it though.
"There was 27 of us who took part as well as seven children. We started at 11am and got back just after one. It seemed to go on and on!
"It was quite emotional as I did a speech before we started and talked about Barbara and the fact that she was the reason why we were all here. I also spoke afterwards and said how Barbara would have been really proud with what we had achieved.
"I feel really determined to reach £1m and when I make up my mind to do something, I usually do!"
Frankie has embraced technology for the first time in his fundraising career after his daughters, Charmaine, 32, and Marisa, 30, told him the campaign would reach so many more people. He now has a Just Giving page - go to www.justgiving.com and search for Frankie Johns.
People can also find out more about his fundraising events by visiting his Facebook page (John Billitteri).
Frankie's next big fundraiser is a music charity night on Saturday September 1 at Kingswood Community Association from 8pm til late. Tickets cost £5 and are available from the office or lounge bar or from Frankie himself (07775 870129).