A CHARITY leader who is expanding a service offering practical support to cancer sufferers and bereaved families has been given a helping hand by Durham City’s Freemen.

Mark Solan launched the Solan, Connor, Fawcett Trust four years ago after cancer claimed the lives of his mother and grandmother.

Mr Solon, who gave up a job as a store manager in Durham City to devote all his time to the charity, now works full-time from his Spennymoor office and can call on 50 volunteers for help.

The trust has delivered help to more than 400 people in the first three years and in the last 12 months embraced 120 new families.

The organisation gained charitable status in 2017 and in the same year Mr Solon’s success was underlined by a regional winner’s title in the Pride of Britain awards.

That honour was subsequently followed last year by a national Points of Light Certificate, further national recognition from Prime Minister Theresa May of his community achievements.

The service, delivered free, responds to individual pleas but also takes up referrals from Macmillan Cancer Support, Durham’s St Cuthbert’s Hospice and the NHS.

The Spennymoor Boutique and Hub offer treatment rooms and a wig bank, while the Ferryhill boutique will add a treatment room and a wig bank by the end of this year. Tradesmen, cleaners and gardeners tackle household services and a constant supply of wheelchairs, mobility scooters and chairlifts is also on offer.

The trust also runs support groups, coffee mornings, social activities and organises day trips.

The trust’s latest venture, in newly rented premises below their current office, wig bank and treatment room in Spennymoor will create a drop-in centre and community kitchen that will run day and night for seven days a week to increase the services offered.

The trust will also will also run open days and workshops for local schools, businesses and the general public to raise awareness of its work in local communities and raise much-needed cash to support its mission.

Mr Solon said: “It all started with a white collar charity boxing match which raised £21,000 for Cancer Research UK, followed by a three-week fundraising walk back from London to the region after the Pride of Britain Award.

“Without the help of volunteers and the financial support of organisations like the freemen we would not survive.

“I had no idea just how big it could grow.

“We are always looking at ways to get the best from every penny we can raise.

“Our work is focused entirely on delivering practical day-to-day support to those struggling after a cancer diagnosis or family loss.”

The freemen have offered a £250 gift in support.

Eric Bulmer, chairman of the freemen’s charitable trust said: “We are pleased to support this amazing charity, developed and driven by the tremendous enthusiasm of Mark and his volunteers.”