A Big Issue seller has been ‘overwhelmed’ by the generosity of Harrogate people as a fundraiser to make his Christmas special has reached nearly £1,000.
A ‘go fund me’ page, set up just over a week ago, has already received over 70 donations for Simon Wray, who has sold the Big Issue North outside Boots in Harrogate for over a decade.
Simon, who is originally from Wakefield, found himself homeless after moving to Harrogate around 15 years ago, but has since been able to get himself a flat by selling the magazine.
He said: “I’m really overwhelmed, I can’t believe people have been so kind, people are lovely to me but they have exceeded all of my expectations.
“It’s going to make a big difference. I can put the gas and electric on for ages and it will see me through for a while.
“January is easily the hardest month. Everybody has spent a lot of their money over Christmas so this will see me through the quietest period.”
But recently, Simon says his life was ‘turned upside down’ when he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in August 2017.
He said: “I can’t do anything that I used to be able to do. My walking is the worst thing, I have a zimmer frame with wheels and when I was first diagnosed I thought I won’t take it out that much but I have to bring it out every day.
“Fatigue is another thing - I can’t keep going like I used to, I used to be stood up all day from 7am-5pm but I have a little stool that I have to sit on while I sell papers now.”
But despite the devastating blow, Simon remains positive and says he will carry on doing the job he loves until his body stops him.
He said: “I feel really close to the community, I come out on a Sunday even though I rarely sell any magazines on Sunday, just because I like coming out and chatting to people.
He added: “I’ll probably carry on for as long as my body allows me to because I love what I do.”
The go fund me page was set up by Harrogate resident, Corrina Young, who said that she started off by asking for warm clothes, food and other gifts to give to Simon for Christmas.
She said: “I spoke to Simon and he said that he was struggling financially so I put out an appeal on Facebook.
She added: “People started offering money so I spoke to Simon and suggested that we set up a page where he is the beneficiary and can withdraw the funds at any time.”
In less than 10 days, the original target of £300 has been met nearly three times over.
Now Simon can look forward to a warmer and brighter Christmas.
Nic Backhouse, Big Issue North Leeds Office Team Leader said: “It is so kind of the people of Harrogate to dig deep and give so generously.
“Above all, it really shows that Simon, like so many Big Issue North vendors, are vital and valued parts of their local communities.
“Alongside the support Simon receives from our staff, and from donations to Big Issue North Trust, this crowdfunding will go a long way towards helping give Simon a brighter Christmas.”