Jonny’s charity falls on hard times

Jonny Kennedy.
Jonny Kennedy.

A CHARITY set up in memory of a popular Alnwick man who died of a rare skin condition is on the brink of ruin, his mother has warned.

Jonny Kennedy North East, which now has just two charity shops left, both in Whitley Bay, is on its last legs unless sponsors come forward with financial help. Epidermolysis bullosa sufferer Jonny, of Chapel Lands, touched millions of people when the last four months of his life was made into a television documentary called The Boy Whose Skin Fell Off, in 2004.

Trustee Eric Duffield set up the charity with the help of Jonny’s mum, Edna, to ensure more of the money raised could help actual sufferers.

Both put in thousands of pounds of their own money, but the credit crunch has meant fewer financial contributions coming in and, having already had to close the shop in Fenham, the two shops in Whitley Bay now look doomed. The shops, which employ three part-time staff, each working 16 hours per week on minimum wage, also have five volunteers.

Mrs Kennedy, who lives in Tynedale, said: “The shops have got the stock but we just don’t have the same number of people coming in. We still have rent, rates and staffing to pay for. Unfortunately, it’s getting to the stage where our overhead costs are nearly more than what we are getting in.

“Jonny is still in people’s minds and this charity is his legacy, so we urgently need support to keep it going. It’s a very difficult time.”

Eric said: “I have had to give staff formal notice, that if things don’t improve in the next two to three months, we’ve got to consider closing it down.

“I’ve had to pay the rent on one of the shops out of my own personal bank account for the past two or three months and I can’t afford to continue doing that. So whatever help businesses can give us on the financial side, we would be extremely grateful.

“Because of all the hard work we have put into it, it would feel incredibly upsetting if we were to close – this is Jonny’s legacy after all.”

To help, contact Eric on 07738 076081 or e-mail ericduffield@hotmail.co.uk