Generous customers and staff of a pan-Wales and Shrewsbury-based chain of garden, home and ‘great outdoors’ stores have raised an incredible £18,203.33 to support the lifesaving work of air ambulance operations.

Charlies is an independent, family-run retailer with stores in Aberystwyth, Carmarthen, Newtown, Queensferry, Welshpool and Shrewsbury. In the run-up to Christmas, they introduced a number of fundraising initiatives. £2 from the sale of every real Christmas tree was donated while bucket collections took place across the stores, and a fundraising raffle was held for staff.

Over 5,500 Premium Spruce and Nordman Fir trees were sold over the 2018 festive period, a new record for Charlies. Meanwhile, the Coed-y-Dinas singing reindeer proved to be a hit with customers in the Welshpool store, raising over £6,500. In total, an enormous £18,203.33 was raised, with £15,253.33 going to Wales Air Ambulance and £2950 to Midlands Air Ambulance.

Charlies Stores Managing Director Becky Lloyd presented a cheque to WAA Fundraising Manager Andrew Hall at the Charity’s Welshpool base, yesterday (9 January 2019).

Becky Lloyd said: “It has become an annual tradition to donate £2 from the sale of each real Christmas tree to the Air Ambulance and this year we were very pleased to see more customers than ever choosing to buy from us. In an attempt to raise further valuable funds, we managed to track down three of the finest singing reindeer who entertained our Coed-y-Dinas customers throughout the festive period. We’re proud to be able to donate such a large sum of money to what is a very worthy cause and we would like to take the opportunity to thank our customers and staff for donating so generously.”

Andrew Hall said: “We are very grateful to all at Charlies Stores for the ongoing support that they give to Wales Air Ambulance, and to the generosity of the public who donated such an incredible amount. Each lifesaving mission costs £1500, and this donation will potentially save a number of lives. It is incredible and we look forward to working with Charlies Stores throughout the year in other fundraising initiatives.”

WAA was launched on St. David’s Day in 2001. From humble beginnings as a one-helicopter service, it has grown into the UK’s largest air ambulance operation that can be anywhere in Wales within twenty minutes. At a cost of £6.5m per year, it now runs four aircraft with bases in Welshpool, Caernarfon, Llanelli and Cardiff. It is the only air ambulance charity based in, and dedicated to, Wales.

The service is now one of the most advanced in Europe. A unique Third Sector-Public Sector partnership between WAA and NHS Wales has resulted in the creation of the consultant-led Emergency Medical Retrieval and Transfer Service (EMRTS Cymru), more commonly known as the ‘Welsh Flying Medics’. WAA now provides pioneering pre-hospital critical and emergency medical care across Wales – taking the emergency room to the patient.