Charity ‘chick knit’ recoups the cash for Francis House

Knitters from around the globe picked up their needles after an appeal by Francis House to send in characterful knitted chicks and bunnies.

Staff at Francis House in Didsbury were ‘egg-static’ when a final count revealed a whopping 35,000 chicks had flown through their doors.

The cute creations are filled with a small chocolate egg, donated in their tens of thousands by schools, supermarkets and local businesses before being sold across the region for £2 each.

The Francis House Easter Chick Appeal helps to fund the hospice’s vital work in caring for children and young adults with life-limiting conditions and offering support and respite for the whole family.

The fundraising appeal is expected to raise more than £65,000 in 2024.

This year chicks arrived from far-flung places including Hong Kong, Canada, Australia and almost 900 from Uganda.

“Our Easter Chick Appeal is unique in that it involves not just our wonderful knitters but the whole community going all out in their support. Businesses and individuals collect and donate creme eggs, dozens of volunteers pack the chicks into orders and heaps of fantastic venues sell the chicks and bunnies - it’s a huge team effort.”

Rachel Nasiri, fundraising officer at Francis House
Woman holding chocolate creme eggs kneeling in front of thousands of creme eggs

Rachel Nasiri with thousands of donated creme eggs.

Clever Crafters

Closer to home, Maria Dunbobbin from Cheadle knitted more than 1,400 chicks, some topped with beautiful bows complete with googly eyes. Maria even knitted a dozen Super Mario style chicks, which were snapped up by eager fans as soon as they appeared for sale on the hospice website.

Not all of the chicks arrive ready for sale and a band of volunteers set to work repairing crooked beaks, missing eyes and saggy bottoms that couldn’t hold a chocolate egg.

Great-grandmother Beryl Wood from Denton made a daily 15 mile round trip to the hospice to collect the occupants of ‘chick hospital’ and single-handedly mended more than 1,000 chicks.

Beryl, aged 85, said: “When they showed me the chick hospital I picked out two chicks which were beautifully knitted but one had an eye on the side of its head – I couldn’t believe it! Other knitters I think are using an old pattern from when the eggs were bigger, now they’re smaller the eggs fall out. I’m happy to do the repairs as they bring a smile to your face.

“If I’m not knitting chicks for Francis House, I’m making hats for premature babies or homeless people. My mum taught me to knit when I was seven and I love it. I can watch the television and talk to people when I knit, my hands need to be doing something.”

Woman wearing a woolly hat and patterned coat holding yellow knitted chicks sat behind a box of knitted chicks on a table

Beryl Wood mended more than 1,000 chicks in need of repair.

Beryl’s house is so packed full of craft materials that she can ‘hardly move’ and she even took her knitting on holiday to Australia. “There’s no point sitting and not knitting,” she says.

When Beryl’s husband Geoff died 27 years ago, the neighbours collected £680 and Beryl didn’t hesitate in donating it to Francis House, receiving a letter of thanks from Sister Aloysius the founder of the hospice.

“So long as what I’m doing with my life has no negative impact on anybody I just do what I like. I am incredibly lucky that I’m healthy and have family and friends. We’re on this earth to do good and if I can help an amazing charity like Francis House I’m really pleased to help out,” she said.

Cheryl Thompson, from Heaton Chapel, volunteered her time at the hospice unpacking hundreds of parcels of chicks, mending those that wouldn’t hold an egg and making up orders ready for delivery.

Cheryl said: “It was always my aim when I finished work that I would do some volunteering because I didn’t want to just sit around and do nothing. It’s certainly been varied and in addition to the chick appeal I’ve helped out at bucket collections. Volunteering has given me motivation, knowing that I’ve got something worthwhile to get up for.”

Community Champions

Four women holding boxes of knitted chicks stood in front of a white car with the boot open

Staff from AO in Bolton spent the day delivering chicks orders to venues.

For every chick and bunny knitted, an egg is needed to fill it. Keen to help on chick ‘stuffing’ sessions were staff from Taylor Wimpey Manchester, CHEP UKI and Equilibrium Financial Planning who took part during paid volunteering hours.

Delivering 35,000 chicks to participating schools and shops to go on sale required an army of volunteer drivers. Staff from AO’s Quality and Compliance team in Bolton swapped a day at their desks and delivered 3,800 chicks to 20 locations around the city centre, Salford, Stockport, Wythenshawe and Altrincham.

Ashleigh Edwards, manager at AO said: “When it came to choosing a charity for our Make A Difference Day we wanted do something that we could really get involved with and Francis House stood out as a local children’s charity that we wanted to help.

“It was great fun spending the day driving around and dropping off orders of chicks. The team at Francis House were so grateful and we even bought some chicks ourselves. The hardest part was selecting which ones we wanted – there were all so cute and so many to choose from.”

More than 60 schools participated in selling chicks; among them students from St Vincent’s RC Primary School in Altrincham successfully sold 800 chicks.

Rachel said: “The funds raised through this year’s Easter Chick Appeal will go a long way in supporting the work of Francis House. We rely on the community’s goodwill to continue our services; it is very reassuring in this difficult fundraising climate to see so many supporters still prepared to give their time, efforts and money to help our hospice.”

Anyone hoping to buy a chick while stocks last can visit a list of vendors selling chicks via a Francis House Google Map.

Easter Chick Appeal

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