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‘We wanted to help’ - friends raise £12,000 to buy vehicle for First Responders

PUBLISHED: 06:30 11 September 2020 | UPDATED: 08:42 11 September 2020

Stephen Laing and Kieron Ruddy  Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Stephen Laing and Kieron Ruddy Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Charlotte Bond

When Hadleigh Community First Responders’ vehicle was falling apart, determined fundraisers Steve Laing and Kieron Ruddy stepped in.

Pictured with the Hadleigh Community First Responders new vehicle, from left, John Curran, representing the 41 club and Layham Parish Council, Jack Clarke of Suffolk Freemasons, Jayne Tann of Raydon Parish Council, Helen Allen, Hadleigh mayor, First Responders co-ordinator Trevor Sheldrick, Yvonne Free, Sarah Egglestone,
Kieron Ruddy and Steve Laing Picture: JUNE SHELDRICKPictured with the Hadleigh Community First Responders new vehicle, from left, John Curran, representing the 41 club and Layham Parish Council, Jack Clarke of Suffolk Freemasons, Jayne Tann of Raydon Parish Council, Helen Allen, Hadleigh mayor, First Responders co-ordinator Trevor Sheldrick, Yvonne Free, Sarah Egglestone, Kieron Ruddy and Steve Laing Picture: JUNE SHELDRICK

The pair joined forces to raise £12,000 to buy a much-needed new vehicle - working together with others in their “close-knit” community to keep the vital service on the road.

Trevor Sheldrick, co-ordinator of Hadleigh Community First Responders, was delighted with their fundraising efforts. He said: “Kieron and Stephen are true gentlemen of our community, always ready to aid good causes, and we are very proud of them.”

Both fundraisers are aware of just how important the First Responders’ role is. Mr Laing, 62, owner of the Queen’s Head pub in Lower Layham, said: “During coronavirus, the First Responders have certainly been at the sharp end - they are people who give up their time for us.”

And Mr Ruddy, 37, of Hadleigh, added: “Anyone could need their help - first aid is so important. It’s something you often don’t think about until you need it.”

Stephen Laing and Kieron Ruddy  Picture: CHARLOTTE BONDStephen Laing and Kieron Ruddy Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Mr Laing himself demonstrated just how vital first aid is when he saved a customer’s life back in 2018. Derek Harrison went into cardiac arrest at the pub, fell and hit his head on the tiled floor.

Using his first aid training, the landlord stepped in, stemmed the bleeding, and carried out chest compressions, while the patient’s wife fetched one of the village’s public defibrillators. A First Responder then arrived and took over.

Mr Harrison was back at the Queen’s Head just four days later to enjoy a pub lunch and thank the man that saved his life.

MORE: Suffolk pub landlord saves man’s life

This was just one of more than 1,000 call-outs which the First Responders attended using their old vehicle, including 999 calls.

Stephen Laing and Kieron Ruddy  Picture: CHARLOTTE BONDStephen Laing and Kieron Ruddy Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Their little black Citroen C3 had become a familiar sight around Hadleigh, but started to wear out.

Mr Sheldrick said: “Inevitably the constant short journeys and sometimes rough terrain of country lanes and tracks took their toll. We were sad to have to scrap it and revert back to our own private vehicles.”

Mr Laing said: “The First Responders put out a request on social media, saying their existing car was starting to fall apart.

“We both saw it, and decided to see if we could do something about it and give them a hand.”

Stephen Laing and Kieron Ruddy  Picture: CHARLOTTE BONDStephen Laing and Kieron Ruddy Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

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Mr Laing and Mr Ruddy initially set up a JustGiving page and appealed for donations, raising more than £1,000 via this route.

Unfortunately, their appeal went out just as the coronavirus pandemic arrived, making it harder to raise funds.

However, the pair were not disheartened, and quickly got busy applying for grants and donations, initially aiming to raise £10,000.

Mr Laing is a former Layham parish councillor and Mr Ruddy a former Hadleigh town councillor, so they both have many contacts, and they applied for funds to all the parish councils in the area served by the First Responders.

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The biggest donation came from Suffolk Freemasons. “They made a grant of £8,000, which was fantastic,” Mr Ruddy said.

Other grants came from Hadleigh Town Council, Raydon and Layham Parish Councils, the 41 Club and many individuals.

Local garage Ainger Holbrows Ltd had a customer who wanted to trade in a Honda CR-V, which was just the vehicle the First Responders were looking for. Proprietor Andrew Breitsprecher had the vehicle sign-written and fully badged up and has also agreed to sponsor it in the coming years.

Mr Laing and his wife Tanith have used the Queen’s Head as a hub to support the Layham community during the pandemic, and are still delivering Sunday lunches to some isolated people. The pub has its own charity fund and has supported a number of local causes, including buying a nebuliser for a local health clinic and helping to buy public defibrillators.

Mr Ruddy has also been involved in helping many causes and in the past has raised money for local charities through Christmas light displays at his home.

Mr Laing and Mr Ruddy both stressed that many people had supported the fundraising, which showed just how strong the community spirit in the Hadleigh area is.

“It is a close-knit community and everybody wants to do their part in trying to help each other,” Mr Ruddy said.

• Hadleigh Community First Responders are currently appealing for more volunteers to join and train.

For more information on what’s involved, email hadleighcfr@gmail.com


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