WORLD boxing champion Stuart Hall has shown his softer side by becoming an ambassador for a project which supports older and vulnerable people in Darlington.

The 34-year-old, who became IBF world bantamweight champion in December after defeating South African Vusi Malinga, has been chosen as a champion for the Good Friends project.

Run by Age UK Darlington, the scheme has recruited more than 300 volunteers to help elderly people with simple day-to-day tasks to combat isolation and increase their independence.

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During a visit to Age UK Darlington’s Bradbury House headquarters, Hall said he was humbled to be chosen to support the project.

He said: “When I was younger I always helped older people. There was an elderly man about two doors down from me when I was about 11, I used to go to the shops and walk the dog for him.”

In 1990, Hall became junior mayor of Darlington after winning a school competition by writing a letter saying he wanted to visit elderly people in the town and help them.

“I said that all those years ago, and all these years later I am doing just that,” he said.

Speaking at the event, Peter Barron, editor of The Northern Echo and board member of Darlington Partnership, which commissioned the project, said: “It is fantastic for a little boy to say that, and it fits in with what we are trying to do with the Good Friends scheme.”

The scheme was launched in October last year and currently helps more than 300 elderly and vulnerable people in Darlington.

Chief executive of Age UK Darlington, Gillian Peel said: “We have Good Friends champions who are often councillors and church leaders who help us to recruit more volunteers so it is fantastic that Stuart is now our champion of champions.

“We have one lady who was recently widowed and immobile but doesn’t qualify for care. She has got three Good Friends who all do different things for her – one walks the dog, one is teaching her how to play chess and the other one takes her to Marks and Spencer’s food hall.

“She has got all that support through Good Friends, and they are all little things that make a big difference.”

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