Ballymoney’s Black Santa, aka Liam Beckett, has smashed all previous charity sit out records by collecting nearly £10,000!
Thanking everyone who helped raise such a staggering amount, the Ballymoney personality announced on Twitter: “Just had a call from our local council to tell me my Black Santa sit out this year has smashed all previous records, thanks to you all we’ve raised £9,230.”
For the tenth year, Liam has taken up residence at his ‘home from home’ at the Diamond and braved all the elements to collect money for five local charities - The Salvation Army, St Vincent de Paul, The Samaritans, Drop Inn Ministries, Compass Advocacy.
Speaking to the Times, Liam explained: “I am completely overwhelmed by the total. I have been doing the sit out for ten years now and every year we have managed to beat the previous year. Last year we collected over £6,000 but to now jump to £9,230 is incredible but it’s a hell of a target to try to beat next year.”
Following his sit out in December, Liam has been totally amazed at the generosity of the community, both local and further afield.
“There are so many people I would like to thank. All donations, no matter big or small, I am indebted to them all.
“Each year I have my regulars in the community including the BBC’s annual collection, and this year was no different. As always, I would like to thank Roadside Garages who got behind Black Santa and held a Big Breakfast which raised a staggering £1,000 plus.
“Their commitment to the local community is truly amazing - it’s not just a one way street for them. They also do a lot for local sport in the community and it’s great to see a large company giving something back.
“Not only regulars, I also saw a few new faces. During my sit out I got a call from Stephen Nolan Show who explained that a gentleman from Coalisland, Philip Anderson, had run a marathon every week for charity. Despite having a disability, and in memory of his late wife, he ran an incredible 55 marathons.
“He had given money to his chosen charities and had some left and had asked the Stephen Nolan Show if they knew of any other worthy fundraising event.
“They kindly put my name forward and Philip gave me a magnificent £1,000. So even before I had started my sit out, I had already collected £2,000.
“Another motorcyclist from Lurgan got sponsorship to bike around the Ulster Grand Prix three times and collected £62 which was great. So money was not only coming in locally but also provincewide.”
Thankfully the weather was kind to Liam this year, however as usual he is indebted to the Causeway Coast and Glens Council for the ‘Little House on the Prairie’ hut!
“It was cold but not unbearable like in the past. Each year I’m located at the corner where four streets meet and it can be extremely windy and chilly. But I’m well prepared and have that many layers of thermals on, I have to give myself half an hour in advance to go to the toilet,” he joked.
“As usual, massive thanks to Council and Elizabeth Johnston. Each year they set up my little house on the prairie hut, collect and count the money while the local banks sort it - it makes a great team.”
Last week Liam officially handed over a fifth of the Black Santa proceeds to each of the five charities.
“Each of the charities are close to my heart and I was delighted to be able to hand over £1,846 to my five cross community charities.
“I am an Ambassador for Samaritans and a patron for Can Can Compass. I am closely involved with all of them and when they benefit it makes me feel good. To know the effort and commitment the charities put in is being rewarded by the money raised is fantastic.
“My job is easy, I just sit out for a couple of weeks. However it’s the other people involved who do their charity work all year round that deserve the praise. Just knowing that the money is going to help those less fortunate than us keeps me going each year, it’s like a shot of adrenalin.”
Always on the go to raise money for charity, Liam added: “I’m just on the way now to film the video for the Euro 2016 anthem.
“It’s being sung by a group of Northern Ireland fans as well as myself, UTV’s Ruth Gorman and Cool FM Pete Snodden and others - I think May McFettridge is also coming along which will be a laugh.
“It’s called ‘On Our Way to France’ and was written by Hillsborough man Vincent Soye. Hopefully it will raise lots of money for the Tiny Life charity as well spurring Michael O’Neill’s men on to victory.”