University of Cumbria ceremonies manager Suzanne Forrester is bringing Christmas cheer to campus – dressing up as an elf every day in December as part of a family fight back against a dementia diagnosis.
Suzanne, 48, says she has been overwhelmed by the response of supporters who have helped raise £1,400 to date for the Alzheimer’s Society through her charity challenge.
As self-declared ‘Alan’s Elves’, Suzanne, sister Kerri Forrester-Willacy and half-sister Gill Levorato signed up for the national charity’s festive fancy dress fundraising Elf Day on 6 December initially to raise awareness of the disease.
Two years ago Suzanne’s father Alan, who is now 85 and lives near Lancaster, was diagnosed with vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s and today he regularly visits the city’s De Vitre House day centre.
Suzanne, a member of University of Cumbria’s Student and Academic Administration Service, said: “Having worked every day of his life, not retiring until he was 80 and never having a day’s sick, Dad has sadly fallen foul of this dreadful condition. Our family is not alone – there are so many others out there too who are affected.
“The Alzheimer’s Society is working hard to transform the landscape of dementia forever and, until the day that a cure is found, it is helping to ensure those affected by dementia are supported and we wanted to do something to show our appreciation for the help we receive.”
Suzanne decided to take Elf Day further and has dressed up every day, including at work – on the university campus in Bowerham Road, Lancaster, as have her siblings.
She said: “We’ve really been doing this morning, noon and night since the start of the month and we’ve agreed to keep going until Christmas. We’ve been going shopping, doing Zumba classes, all sorts of things dressed as elves.
“My University of Cumbria colleagues have been so supportive. They’ve had bake sales, raising nearly £200, and donated individually while the Reform Club has also raised money. We only expected to raise around £100 so we are really humbled and overwhelmed by people’s generosity.
“We want to raise awareness about this disease. There is so much stigma and misunderstanding about it, and how it affects people’s lives and behaviours.”
Donations can be made online at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/elfday2019-suzanneforrester
Also on campus throughout December, members of University of Cumbria Students’ Union have been doing a reverse advent collection in aid of Morecambe Bay Foodbank, accepting donations of food and household items from staff, students and visitors.