LAST month, The Northern Echo announced it would be giving local charities the chance to take a share of a whopping £25,000 cash giveaway.

Our parent company’s charitable arm, The Gannett Foundation, is providing £125,000 in cash to support local charities across the country and we are delighted to have a £25,000 share to give away in our area.

We have been inundated with more than 1,000 nominations for your favourite charities, all of which are doing amazing things for their communities – whether it be supporting those suffering a bereavement; giving children with autism and disabilities fun experiences; supporting mental health; rescuing animals; or a group which serves its community through music – to name but a few.

As the closing date for new nominations approaches, we are celebrating some of the charities which have had the most nominations so far.

To make a nomination,log-on to and fill in your nomination form or you can write to us, confirming the name and address of the charity you’d like to nominate and why to: Readers’ Choice Cash For Charity Nominations, The Northern Echo, Priestgate, Darlington, DL1 1NF by the closing date of Sunday, October 3.

Once all nominations have been received, our editor will select eight of the most popular local charities to be featured in this year’s grants scheme.

We’re then going to put the power to allocate the cash back into the hands of our readers – for four weeks, readers will be invited to collect tokens from our newspapers which can then be sent to collection points across our region or posted.

Each token collected will then be used to allocate cash to the nominated charity – so if your favourite charity collects 50 per cent of all to tokens collected, it will receive 50 per cent of the £25,000!

The first charity which has been nominated dozens of times is Heel and Toe Children's Charity, based in Chester-le-Street.

It provides therapies for children with cerebral palsy and other disabilities.

Gabrielle Dixon, from Sunderland, said: "Thanks to this amazing charity my six-year-old step-daughter Siena, who was told by consultants at one-year-old that she would never be able to walk took her first steps last year.

"Every day for her is full of adventure thanks to the hours of intense therapy that she receives. The utmost unique care, effort and passion the staff at this charity have is why it promotes so many amazing results for the families who attend, but also providing the children with a safe, fun environment that they feel they can achieve their best."

Another charity with scores of nominations is Little Treasures, based in Ferryhill.

Ann Young said: "Little Treasures Autism group has been absolutely amazing for us as a family. I am a foster carer with three children with additional needs (two have autism).

"This group has provided so many activities not just for my children but the whole family. One of the children found it so hard to leave the house through Covid, but with the help of Little Treasures we were able to help him feel safe and take part in lots of outdoor activities such as quad biking, paddle boarding, and horse riding. I can't thank them enough."

Spennymoor Town Band received dozens of nominations.

Katharine Mutch said: "The band supports all local community events such as Gala days, local fun days, Armed Forces days, and Remembrance Sunday, and keeps the mining history of the area alive. It entertains the local community, and provides professional music teaching to young people.

"Anyone can join, instruments provided. The senior band is a like minded group of people who come together and support each other through their shared love of brass playing."

Another popular charity which has saved the lives of hundreds of babies and children is the Children's Heart Unit Fund, known as CHUF, based at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle.

Stacey Hamlyn from Guisborough said: "My daughter was diagnosed with a heart condition hours after she was born, during the peak of the pandemic in May 2020 and was blue-lighted up to the Freemans Hospital. We were there a total of 20 days.

"The support CHUF provided at this time was incredible, providing vouchers for hot meals for me and my husband at the staff canteen as all visitor cafes were closed due to lockdown measures; providing me with breastfeeding support with pumps so although I couldn't feed my daughter myself I had every opportunity to give her the the benefits of breast milk.

"Since then, my little girl has attended the unit at the Freemans for various procedures before her open heart surgery which is currently being planned for."

As expected, we had lots of nominations for animal charities, including Consett Cat Rescue.

Linda Kent said: "This charity is run by a lady called Kay solely because of her love for cats. She rescues, re-homes, educates the community and works tirelessly to improve the quality of life for cats within the area.

"She does this voluntarily. In doing so she supports social services and vulnerable people who need their cats re-homing for complex reasons. She can't even go on holiday because of her commitment and dedication."

There were hundreds of nominations for several charities supporting those following a death of a loved one by suicide. One of those is If U Care Share Foundation, based in Chester-le-Street.

Julie, from Wheatley Hill, said: I have lost two sons who took their own lives. I don't know where I would be or how I would have done without Shirley and the team at If U Care Share. Lots of people in my community have also been affected by the same. The whole team are amazing and deserve to be recognised for the number of lives they change, and help.

"They work harder than any of the big charities as people don't think it will happen to them and they are scared to talk about it. The charity does training in our schools from age four to 18 and worked with over 53,000 young people. Anyone who is struggling with life for whatever reason can turn to them and I know in County Durham and the North East it's a massive problem.

St Cuthbert's Hospice in Durham won a huge amount of support in the nominations.

Christopher Allison, from Chester-le-Street, said: "They provide essential palliative care care to those battling cancer. Their fantastic care team do their very best to ease the suffering of the very sick inpatients, caring for people having truly the most difficult time of their life."

Grace House, in Sunderland, provides respite care for children and young adults. It also runs counselling services for families and trips out for children.

Laura Forbes from Boldon said: "Grace House is an incredible charity that enriches the lives of disabled children, young people and their families across our region. They offer a wide range of support that is not available anywhere else and have continued to offer this support throughout the pandemic when other services stopped, leaving families feeling even more isolated and anxious.

"Training sessions in holistic therapies such as Reiki allow family carers time to relax and recharge and also calm down children and reduce anxiety. Youth Groups at Grace House encourage friendships between young people and support life skills including cooking, independent living and art work."

Other charities with multiple nominations include Quinn's Retreat in Barnard Castle, which provides respite for those suffering bereavement following suicide; Cheesy Waffles Project in Durham which supports children and young adults with additional needs; Durham Area Disability and Leisure Group; South Tyneside Ability Football Club, which helps disabled adults and children to play football; and Family Help Darlington CIO, which is the town's only women's refuge.