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Stockton volunteer travels enough miles to circle the earth raising £150k for charity

A charity volunteer has travelled more than 24,000 miles around the North East (nearly reaching the equatorial circumference of Earth) – to raise £150,000 for the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).

John Clark, 68 from Stockton on Tees, became an RNIB Sooty Box Collector after retiring as a finance manager in 2012. Since then, he has built up a huge network of places to host his Sooty collection boxes – with just under 400 across an area than spans from Hartlepool to Hinderwell.

John said: “When I was working, I regularly donated money to around 20 charities, so when I retired, I wanted to give up some of my time for charity too.

“I started with a handful of Sooty Boxes, but I’ve built it up over the years to nearly 400 and I rack up the miles travelling between them. It’s a very big area, but I have a schedule all planned out on my computer so I can see exactly when a collection is due and nothing gets missed.

“After I’ve made my collections, I deposit around 70 or 80 kilos in coins to the bank every fortnight. I’ve raised £150k for RNIB so far – which means I’m hitting my personal target of around £20,000 a year!”

As well as maintaining his Sooty Boxes, John also conducts store collections for the charity, visiting his local branches of Tesco, Asda and Morrisons to fundraise. He estimates he’s now done around 120 store visits and collected over £38,000, including £18,000 from stores he contacted personally.

He said: “It’s not just about the money for a good cause. This role has also given me the opportunity to meet people and really help others. I always carry RNIB information with me when I’m out collecting, and there’s been several times when I’ve been able to put someone who was losing their sight in touch with the charity for support.

“Another benefit is that this role has made me so much healthier. When I was working, I was office-based and spent a good four days a week sat at a desk. I developed real problems with my knees and joints, which made it hard to exercise. Because my collection run combines walking with driving, this combination has improved my fitness dramatically and I don’t get as many problems with my knees anymore.

“I would absolutely recommend becoming a Sooty Box collector to others. If you have the time and the inclination to get out and about and do the work, it’s extremely rewarding. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the last seven years and I know that it’s done some good.”

RNIB’s Volunteer Facilitator for the North East, Michael Hall said: “John’s dedication to raising money for RNIB is amazing and it’s incredible that he’s been able to raise £150k in just seven years on his own. We are so grateful to all the time, energy and mileage that he has put in to raise this fantastic amount. He really has gone the distance!”

“Without people like John, who literally go the extra mile to help others, we wouldn’t be able to provide the services that we do. We are always on the lookout for fresh faces to help us find new homes for Sooty and would welcome new volunteers from all over the North East.”

Anyone who is interested in hosting a Sooty Box for RNIB can find out more on or email [email protected] for a visit from your local volunteer collector.

Notes to editor

All media enquiries to RNIB’s PR team on [email protected] or 020 7391 2223. For urgent enquiries out-of-hours, please call 07968 482812.

About RNIB

We are the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).

Every six minutes, someone in the UK begins to lose their sight. RNIB is taking a stand against exclusion, inequality and isolation to create a world without barriers where people with sight loss can lead full lives. A different world where society values blind and partially sighted people not for the disabilities they’ve overcome, but for the people they are.

RNIB. See differently.

Call the RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 9999 or visit