A VOLUNTEER has travelled more than 24,000 miles around the North East, the equatorial circumference of Earth, to raise £150,000 for charity.

John Clark, 68, from Stockton on Tees, became an RNIB Sooty Box Collector after retiring as a finance manager in 2012.

Since then, he has built up a huge network of places to host his Sooty collection boxes – with just under 400 across an area than spans from Hartlepool to Hinderwell.

John said: “I started with a handful of Sooty Boxes, but I’ve built it up over the years to nearly 400 and I rack up the miles travelling between them. It’s a very big area, but I have a schedule all planned out on my computer so I can see exactly when a collection is due and nothing gets missed.

“After I’ve made my collections, I deposit around 70 or 80 kilos in coins to the bank every fortnight. I’ve raised £150k for RNIB so far."

As well as maintaining his Sooty Boxes, John also conducts store collections for the charity, visiting his local branches of Tesco, Asda and Morrisons to fundraise. He estimates he’s now done around 120 store visits and collected over £38,000, including £18,000 from stores he contacted personally.

RNIB’s Volunteer Facilitator for the North East, Michael Hall said: “John’s dedication to raising money for RNIB is amazing and it’s incredible that he’s been able to raise £150k in just seven years on his own. We are so grateful to all the time, energy and mileage that he has put in to raise this fantastic amount. He really has gone the distance!”

“Without people like John, who literally go the extra mile to help others, we wouldn’t be able to provide the services that we do. We are always on the lookout for fresh faces to help us find new homes for Sooty and would welcome new volunteers from all over the North East.”

  • Anyone who is interested in hosting a Sooty Box for RNIB can find out more by emailing Sooty@rnib.org.uk or at rnib.org.uk/Sooty