A big-hearted Coleraine dad - who has grown his hair and beard for a YEAR to raise funds for his autistic son’s school - is set for a pre-Christmas shave.
Mo Watton, from Windyhall, decided to raise money for DH Christie Primary School’s Learning Support Unit, after he saw the tremendous help and support given to his boy Jude (7).
The proud father has been personally fundraising since last November and set up a justgiving page for donations.
Mo, who works as a taxi driver, told The Coleraine Times: “The unit works with children who suffer from a range of learning difficulties, including autism, ADHD, Asperger’s, and children with physical disabilities.
“It enhances the children’s educational needs using a variety of methods including a sensory experience room.
“Since Jude start in September 2013 he has benefited greatly not only educationally but also mentally, physically and socially. The difference it has made, and continues to make to his life is exceptional.
“The change in him over the past few years since he joined the unit is just fantastic.”
Mo was so impressed with the work of the unit that he wanted to give something back to the Ballycairn Road school.
Last year he urged Ballyrashane Flute Band and Lodge to nominate the Unit as their charity of the year and held a darts competition and quiz sheet fundraiser.
“We raised £909 and presented it to the school and they were really touched by the gesture,” said Mo.
“But then I thought that I wanted to do something myself to show my appreciation so I decided in November 2015 to grow my hair and a beard for a whole year.
“I’ve not shaved or trimmed my hair or beard since then and on Saturday, December 17 we will be holding a bucket collection at Coleraine Showgrounds, where I volunteer with Coleraine Football Club as a turnstile operator.
“I am seeking voluntary donations to maximise the money raised for the children who attend the unit.”
Mo said that he will have his locks shaved during the half time with Ards.
“I’ll be sending a letter out to as many barbers and hairdressers in Coleraine as I can calling for sealed bids to do the haircut and beard shave. The highest bid will win.
“I want to publicly thank the Coleraine chairman Colin McKendry and the Coleraine Board for allowing me to hold the collection.”
Twenty children attend Learning Support Unit 1 and 2 at Christie and are taught by Catherine Keys, Elaine McNally and Melanie Stewart.
Catherine, who is the sister of Coleraine actor James Nesbitt, said: “We are just thrilled and delighted with the wonderful support Mo has given us. He’s gone over and above the call of duty.
“Mo has been so grateful for all that we have done for little Jude and he just wanted to show his appreciation. He has been a tremendous help to us.
“He is so complimentary about our Unit and says he finds it to be a very safe and caring environment.”
Catherine added that the funds raised will be used for the educational and social development of children in the two classes.
“We like to take the children on as many trips as possible - places like farms or cafes - both as a learning exercise and to help their social skills.
“Little Jude likes music so we may even consider buying special musical instruments that the pupils can use or a new iPad for ICT learning.
“Mo has been a wonderful help and a tremendous supporter of Learning Support.”
Mo recently spoke about his fundraising efforts when he met Bannsiders fan and sponsor James Nesbitt at the recent game against Ballymena.
“He thought what I was doing was fantastic and said his sister and everyone in the Unit were delighted. I’m hoping that everyone will give generously on the day and I’m already planning more fundraising activities for the school next year.
Mo’s Justgiving page can be found here: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/mo-watton?utm_id=106&utm_term=DMrqQqK73