He's one in a million - and now he wants to raise £1m

June 29 2018
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A CHARITY fundraiser who has collected thousands of pounds for Help for Heroes has turned his attentions on a new cause following a family death.

Singer Frankie Johns, whose real name is John Billitteri, has launched his most ambitious venture to date - to collect 1,000,000 pound coins for the charity Dementia UK.

It follows the death of Frankie's mother-in-law Barbara Fudge, 81, who spent her final days at Saffron Gardens in Whitehall where she received support from Dementia UK.

Frankie, 59, said: "I've been fundraising for Help for Heroes for nine years, including the million penny challenge. I succeeded in what I'd set out to do so when I lost my mother-in-law on March 21, I felt I should perhaps turn my attention to a charity which really helped Barbara.

"I sing in care homes in Bristol so I've worked with a lot of people with dementia and see what they go through day to day. It's definitely a very good cause as their nurses do such amazing work.

"The charity works in care homes and provides specially trained Admiral nurses to support families affected by dementia. They were fantastic while Barbara was at Saffron Gardens and my fundraising is also to say thank you for the support and care they gave her.

"Years ago people wouldn't talk about dementia; it felt as though it was swept under the carpet but today it's much more open which is a good thing as so many people are affected by it.

"Help for Heroes was a charity that felt really close to my heart; Dementia UK is also a charity close to my heart."

Frankie, who lives in Kingswood, was known for touring the city with his bike and trailer emblazoned with Help for Heroes signs. He will now do the same for Dementia UK.

"I'm going to try to raise £1,000,000. It might take me five years, but I'm determined to do it."

Frankie smashed his one million pennies target in December when he reached 1,018,784 pennies - or £10,187.84.

He promised his wife Julie he would have six months off to spend some quality time with his family, including mother-in-law Barbara.

Now Frankie is raring to go, and, given his latest cause, Julie is right behind him promising to support him however she can.

Frankie has raised more than £70,000 over the years for Help for Heroes, a charity supporting British service men and women who have been wounded or injured in the line of duty.

Among his list of fundraising achievements are climbing Kilimanjaro, a Bristol to London bike ride and a daredevil skydive.

His most popular campaign was his million pennies campaign where he cycled round the city, encouraging people to throw their unwanted change into his trailer. 

His fundraising prowess hasn't gone unnoticed - he was nominated for a Pride of Britain award in the Fundraiser of the Year category, which although he didn't win, he said was a huge honour.

Frankie's first fundraiser for Dementia UK will be a family affair when relatives and close friends take on a 5k walk across the Downs on July 8. Frankie hasn't opened the event up to members of the public as he wanted to use the walk as an opportunity for those close to Barbara to remember her and pay tribute.

He said: "It's just for family in friends in memory of Barbara but I am planning another walk which will be open to everyone to take part."

Among family joining Frankie with be wife Julie, 57, daughters Charmaine, 32, and Marisa, 30, and grandchildren and Colby, eight, Kemper, six, Luciano, two, Quinn, nearly two, and newborn Milana.

Frankie is also getting to grips with social media for the first time after his daughters told him he would need to embrace modern technology if he is to ever reach his ambitious target.

With help from Charmaine, Frankie has now set up a JustGiving page for online donations (go to www.justgiving.com and search for Frankie Johns). People can also get in touch with him via his Facebook page (John Billitteri) or by ringing him on 07775 870129 if they would prefer to make a direct donation. 

Future charity events include an entertainment evening at Kingswood Community Centre on Saturday September 1. Tickets will be available soon from the club or from getting in touch directly with Frankie.

Frankie said: "I've done a lot for Help for Heroes and now I want to support Dementia UK in memory of my mother-in-law and in support of the men and women I see daily who suffer with dementia. It's a charity which is worth supporting so I can give them the help that they need to do their amazing work.

"It's the biggest challenge I've ever taken on, but I know I will do it."