THE founder of a charity which provides free holidays for families who have seriously ill and bereaved children has launched a massive fundraising operation to expand its work.
Luke Tillen, who started the Torbay Holiday Helpers Network in 2009, is looking to take the charity a step further and provide purpose-built accommodation for families who have high-level care needs.
Mr Tillen (pictured) wants to raise money so the right accommodation can be found or built in the Bay.
He said: "Currently, we are not in a position to accommodate families who have high-level care needs because, understandably, the accommodation providers simply do not have the facilities required.
"My aim now is to provide a bungalow somewhere on the English Riviera which is fully equipped and able to provide everything these families might need.
"This would be a facility that would enable families that couldn't normally consider a holiday the opportunity for a little respite in a wonderful location. This is obviously a long-term fundraising project for us. We plan to either build on a plot of land or renovate an existing bungalow so, not only do we need to raise an enormous amount of money, we also need to find the right location for this project.
"I'm genuinely proud of the incredible support the THHN has received since I set it up and think that people really understand how much the work that we do means to the families who come on a THHN holiday.
"If anyone thinks they can help with this project in any way whatsoever, I'd be absolutely delighted to hear from them."
THHN began when Mr Tillen started offering free holidays at his family's Babbacombe hotel, Hotel De La Mer to families who have seriously ill and bereaved children, recently bereaved families, couples who have lost a child and to families who have a terminally ill parent.
It then grew as other local accommodation providers agreed to do the same.
Then, local attractions came on board so families could not only receive free accommodation but also enjoy free days out.
Restaurants and other food providers also joined the network providing meals and hampers for those in self-catering accommodation.
The Torbay Holiday Helpers Network has 100 local businesses providing free goods and services.
Mr Tillen is kick-starting his fundraising campaign by running three endurance races over the course of the year.
The first is the London Marathon on April 21. In June, he will take on 'The Wall', a 69-mile ultra-marathon along Hadrian's Wall and will finish off in October with 'The Great West Run' half-marathon in Exeter.
He added: "Running is a hobby of mine so it seems the obvious way to raise money myself but all fundraising is hugely appreciated."
Anyone who would like to sponsor Luke's run should log on to his Just Giving page at www.justgiving.com/Luke-Tillen