John Lewis advert brought to life by inspirational ‘Helpful Heidi’
IN The Man on The Moon, a little girl reaches out to a pensioner to let him know he’s not alone this Christmas – it moved six-year-old Heidi Dawson so much that she’s raised more than £550 in just 10 days to buy presents for an entire homeless hostel.
She may be young but she’ll easily be able to fill Santa’s big shoes on Christmas Eve when she delivers presents to all the men and women living at Bridge House Mission in Stockton.
Just like the child in the iconic John Lewis advert made in partnership with Age UK, Heidi has never met the people she’s about to help but felt compelled to do something for those in need – slightly closer to home – after watching it reduced her to tears.
Through her ‘Heidi’s Helping Hands’ appeal, she’s be inundated with donations which will be spent on filling around 40 bags with essential toiletries as well as little luxuries for the residents at what can be a painfully lonely time of year.
Heidi’s mum, Emily, 30, (pictured above with Heidi and 10-month-old son Maxwell), said: “As well as the advert making her cry, the singer of Half the World is called Aurora, which is her favourite Disney character from Sleeping Beauty. She asked who needed the most help and we decided on Bridge House Mission.
“She wants to give them the chance to feel normal so they can move forward with their lives.
“We call her ‘Helpful Heidi’ as she is so kind – she would give you her last sweet. She keeps asking if doing this will make a difference and I just say “more than you will ever know”.”
Emily, who runs Bronze Tanning and Beauty on Premier Parade in Fairfield, Stockton, is no stranger to helping local causes. Together with her husband Paul, of Paul Dawson’s Barbers just a few doors down the street, the couple has supported Harbour Women’s Refuge and Stockton Town Football Club.
“We are so proud of Heidi, it’s very humbling. We’ve been overwhelmed with the donations of money as well as things like hats, scarves and gloves. It’s even prompting people to do random acts of kindness. They have seen the pureness in what she wants to do and really responded,” Emily explained.
Heidi, a pupil at Hartburn Primary School, said: “The advert made me cry and I wanted to help others so I asked what we could do. I’m looking forward to giving out the bags, I hope the presents make them happy.”
Bridge House Mission has welcomed more than 1,000 men over 38 years and, since last year, it has opened its doors to single homeless women too. They could be addicts, suffer from mental illness or lost their jobs but all are given a bed and vital 24-hour support.
Louise Lefevre, CEO and Trustee of Bridge House Mission, said Heidi’s kindness and the support she was showing was incredible.
“It’s absolutely amazing. At Christmas its important that we keep everyone occupied so they don’t get bored. It’s wonderful that Heidi wants to come and show support to these residents.
“Her bags will will raise their esteem and give them so much confidence. Our residents can feel lonely if they are not with their families throughout the year but it’s heightened at Christmas.”
Ian, one of the people who lives there, has explained in the past how he used to spend Christmas as a homeless man before Bridge House turned his life around. “I would be walking the streets, I would see houses lit up with Christmas decorations and Santa Stop Here signs. It was horrible, it is the worst time of year if you are homeless. Especially Christmas Day, you wake up in a skip, a bin, wherever you can, a doorway or wherever you may have slept that night.
He added: “Come dinner time people are eating their Christmas dinner, you are looking for food that has been thrown out because you have got nowhere to go and nothing to eat. This Christmas, I am really looking forward to it.”
To donate to Heidi’s Helping Hands visit https://www.gofundme.com/heidishelpinghands
For more information about Bridge House Mission and how to donate visit: www.bridgehousemission.co.uk or call 01642-800311.