Photo, L-R: Clive Collins and Pilot, Captain Kevin Goddard pictured at Catsfield Christmas Tree Farm
A Christmas tree farmer is raising funds for Kent, Surrey & Sussex Air Ambulance in its Silver Jubilee year after he was airlifted by the charity helicopter 25 years ago.
Clive Collins, 54, was working as a forestry contractor when he fell 30ft from a tree and broke his back.
He was left paralysed from the waist down but with the aid of a specially adapted tractor he launched his Catsfield Christmas Tree Farm business.
He said: “My life has ended, that was the way I felt, that was my initial reaction. But then I started thinking I could make something out of my situation and there was no reason why I couldn’t have dreams and goals like everyone else.
“I’d always wanted to grow Christmas trees before I was paralysed because I love working outside in the fresh air and I was able to set the farm up so that it was accessible for me.”
Clive employs a team of 15 helpers at his 33-acre farm which produces about 2,000 trees a year for clients including TV presenter Ray Mears.
More than 6.5million Christmas trees are sold across the UK each year which is equivalent to Kent, Surrey & Sussex Air Ambulance’s annual running costs.
Clive is donating 10p from the sale of every tree to raise funds for the charity which relies almost entirely on public support.
He decided to support the air ambulance this year after learning that one of his customers was Pilot, Captain Kevin Goddard, who picked up his tree today (Monday).
Kevin said: “Clive’s farm is on my way to work and we’ve always bought our trees there since we moved to Bexhill. One of the things that attracted us is that you can walk round and select your tree.
“Clive then puts a ribbon around it and cuts it down on the day you pick it up. We usually get two, one for indoors and one for outside.”
Kent Air Ambulance was launched in December 1989, and has helped thousands of people and saved many lives after attending more than 25,000 call-outs over the last quarter of a century.
Clive was one of the charity’s first patients when he was airlifted to the Conquest Hospital following his accident in June, 1990, and later transferred to Stoke Mandeville Hospital.
Kent, Surrey & Sussex Air Ambulance is one of the official Charity Partners for next year’s Brighton Marathon and 10k. Anyone interested in running on behalf of the charity is urged to call 01622 833833.