Bernard’s legacy has been secured at last for Wigan Youth Zone

Bernard Edmunds with partner Sarah
Bernard Edmunds with partner Sarah

A terminally ill Wigan Youth Zone chief’s hoped-for legacy has been secured.

For it has been announced that the £25,000 target for the Bernard’s Wish appeal has been hit - just eight months after it was launched.

The launch of Bernard's Wish

The launch of Bernard's Wish

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Businessman Bernard Edmunds has an incurable brain tumour and revealed this week that his prognosis recently worsened and that doctors have now only given him three more months to live.

But the 71-year-old grandfather expressed his heartfelt thanks to all those who helped to reach the one-off charity target in double-quick time for a purse aimed specifically at special needs youngsters attending the boys and girls’ club.

The appeal was launched in April by youth zone co-founder Martin Ainscough whose own staff certainly did their bit, as did club staff and members.

Among key money-spinning events were:

Ainscough Group employees taking on the gruelling Three Peaks Challenge, scaling the three largest mountains in the UK in less than 24 hours. That raised £6,000 on its own;

In September, a number of runners took on the Wigan 10k in the name of the campaign, many of which were family, friends and colleagues of Bernard, raising almost £9,000 for the fund.

And the JustGiving page set up in aid of Bernard’s Wish has provided a large amount of donations to help reach the target with many friends of Bernard donating - people can still donate here.

Bernard said: “I was extremely pleased and overwhelmed to hear that Bernard’s Wish had reached its £25,000 target.

“In these difficult times for people to dig deep and fund-raise, it gives me a great motivational push to continue my fight against cancer and my work with the youth zone.

“The generosity of Wigan’s public never ceases to amaze me, Wigan Youth Zone has played a very important part of my life and as I look towards the future, I am comforted to know that young people at the youth zone will benefit from the new opportunities available due to Bernard’s Wish.

“I thank everyone who raised funds for the campaign.

“I have had a new prognosis and it is that I have another three months. The aim is to try to get Christmas done and dusted and then try to get things done as best we can. We’re getting there.

“The good thing is that I have lots of love and support all around me.”

Mr Ainscough said: “I am absolutely delighted that, through Bernard’s efforts and initiative, we have raised £25,000 that will go towards helping, entertaining and counselling the young people with additional and special needs who come to the Youth Zone and towards upskilling staff.

“It is testament to Bernard’s dedication to the youth zone that, despite failing health, he still turns up to patrons’ events and is as involved as he can be.

“We are always fund-raising for the youth zone; it never ends. But this particular campaign was something Bernard wanted; we have achieved it and he can see it being spent.”

Shortly before the appeal was launched Mr Edmunds gave an exclusive interview to the Observer, talking about his illness and his desire to dedicate what time he has left to banging the drum for the youth zone as it celebrated its fifth anniversary.

He revealed that the charity had had to cut back on staff and faces a £150,000 annual shortfall, saying that it hasn’t been as good as it might in pushing itself forward as far as getting folk to fund-raise for it.

He said that this has been compounded by several factors:

A lot of people forget that it’s a charity;

A lot of people think it is permanently bankrolled by three of the richest men in Wigan - Dave Whelan, Bill Ainscough and Martin Ainscough - when it isn’t;

It faces a tough local charity market: high-profile causes with strong professional sports club backing which vie successfully for local people’s and businesses’ donations; and

A lot of people perhaps think it is simply a leisure centre with a climbing wall and don’t realise it is helping to enrich and turn round the lives of many local children.

Mr Edmunds said he also wanted to see an increase in the number of youngsters on the Parson’s Walk venue’s books from the current 6,000 members.

Having previously beaten prostate cancer years ago - and raised £600,000 for the related charity Men Matters in the process - Mr Edmundson went for a scan last year after an optician told him that he might have suffered a stroke.

Tests showed that it wasn’t a stroke but he had an incurable brain tumour the size of a golf ball.