A much-loved Santa Express driver, who passed away earlier this year, is the inspiration for a charity ‘Elf’ cycle.

Rob Gillingham, who worked at Otter Garden Centre in Ottery St Mary, sadly died from a brain tumour earlier this year.

Well known for his annual stint as the popular Santa Express driver, Rob would ferry families to and from the garden centre’s popular grotto – which is sadly closed this year due to covid-19.

After learning of the upsetting news, fellow staff member Helen Patterson from the garden centre came up with the idea of the charity cycle which aims to raise money for Brain Tumour Support and Alzheimer’s Society.

The fundraiser which is due to take place on Friday, December 4, will see the centre’s staff members dressed up as elves, walking, running or cycling from Exeter to work.

Former Santa Express driver, Rob Gillingham

Helen who worked as an elf in the renowned grotto, also had a brain tumour which was removed in 2017, leaving her with a titanium plate in her skull and an eyelid that won’t open.

She said: “I was so disappointed not to be an elf this year that I thought this would be a great way to dress up and raise money at the same time.

”We realised we could join in with the fundraising for Brain Tumour Support in memory of our colleague Rob so we started encouraging staff members to get involved.

“We now have more than 40 signed up to cycle, walk or run to work dressed as elves.

Lara White and Carla Ward-Best from Otter Garden Centres

”It’s a great way to use of our elf costumes to bring some festive cheer as we’re unable to run our grotto this year.

”I’m thrilled that so many people from Otter are getting behind the charity – out of something sad has come something good.”

The event has been named ‘Elf Sparkle Cycle Day’ to reflect events being run by Brain Tumour support and Alzheimer’s Society.

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Volunteers from Brain Tumour Support will be at the garden centre all day.

For further information or to donate, visit the Elf Sparkle Cycle Day fundraising page here.





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