Pride of Britain 2021: Meet the West Regional Fundraiser of the Year finalist Jeff Merrett

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It is that time of year when ITV West Country shares the stories of people who have done amazing things in their local communities and are on the shortlist for the Pride of Britain Regional Fundraiser of the Year award.

One of this year’s finalists is Jeff Merrett from Devon, who provides holidays for people with disabilities or life-limiting illnesses.

Former Police Officer, Jeff, has been the chair of charity ‘Dream-A-way’ for almost 30 years and during this time has helped the charity raise nearly £3million.

He said: “We provide holiday grants to people for their chosen holiday. We’ve sent people to Japan; we’ve sent people all over England and all over Europe.

It's pictures like this that Jeff says makes the charity's work worthwhile. Credit: Family photos

“Most recently, we’ve sent somebody to Scotland, which is the dream for a young man who is a teenager and has got quite serious disabilities, so we are delighted to have been able to help him.”

The charity also owns nine caravans in the Devon Cliffs Park in Sandy Bay. Three of them are adapted for wheelchair users so families can enjoy some quality time together.

Jeff said: “We’ve had a lady this year who has got a life-limiting illness and is very poorly. She was able to come down for a week with her family. They built up some beautiful memories. It does make all the hard work of selling raffle tickets and everything else worthwhile.”

Former Artillery Commando Lionel Wilsher from Plymouth says Jeff made a huge difference to him and his wife. Credit: ITV News

Another person who has benefitted from Dream-A-way’s services is former Artillery Commando Lionel Wilsher from Plymouth, who used to enjoy trips to their caravan with his wife, Pauline. 

When speaking about Jeff, he said: “My wife loved him to bits. She was disabled with Huntington’s, and she loved this man. I remember her words to him: “Thank you, Jeff, for my holiday.

“I think the disabled people of Plymouth owe him a tremendous lot. I think he is the man to win this, I really want him to.”