A HUGE fundraising drive for Bradford's Plastic Surgery and Burns Research Unit - ahead of the 30th anniversary of the Valley Parade fire disaster - has so far raised more than £60,000.

The generosity, hard work and ingenuity of people worldwide - including Bradford City supporters, football fans, organisations and the public - in raising money has won the praise of consultant plastic surgeon Ajay Mahajan, who is director of the unit at the University of Bradford.

Cash has come from as far as Australia, the United Arab Emirates and Spain as the campaign aims to reach £300,000 - with many more events and activities planned.

Mr Mahajan said: "It has been brilliant and I am sure we will achieve our target.

"It is really nice to see so many people taking part in so many things - it really is brilliant.


"I cannot thank them enough for their generosity in keeping this in their hearts."

He added: "The more we raise the more we secure the unit for the future. The fundraising is vital. The unit does depend on donations from members of the public - it is solely dependent on that.

"The people of Bradford seem as passionate about it as we are. It is a great combination."

The Burns Unit's Bradford City Fire Disaster website records the latest figure raised as £63,892.72p, with money coming in from various places, including Australia-based Bantams fan Dave Bowers, Madrid-based English teacher and City supporter Thomas Slack, and the Huddersfield Town Supporters' Association.

Alan Carling, of the Remembrance Panel at Bradford City FC Supporters' Board, praised every single person, family and organisation that has raised money, and said: "The response has already been fantastic.

"The money is coming from a great variety of different directions. Everyone who is involved is committed to the remembrance. This is the same every year but it is heightened this year because it is the 30th anniversary."

Terry Dickinson, of the Shelf Bantams supporters' group, helped organise a charity event featuring former Bantams star John Hendrie and former Yorkshire and England cricketer Anthony McGrath.

Held at the Shoulder of Mutton in Shelf, an auction and a raffle raised £2,045 for the Burns Unit. There was also a question and answer session with the star guests.

Mr Dickinson said among the auction lots was former Bantams' defender Ces Podd's number two shirt from the 1982 season that was signed by players from the season of the fire. That was sold for £300 to Bradford fan Jason Booth, over the telephone from the United Arab Emirates. Mr Booth had got in touch with Mr Dickinson via Facebook.

Also auctioned was a football that had been signed on the morning of the day of the fatal fire. Mr Dickinson said: "It was signed on the morning of the fire by the team, just as a memento for somebody. It ended up being raffled after the fire."

It was bought for £250 at the auction in Shelf.

Other lots auctioned by guest auctioneers Hendrie and McGrath included various City tops from over the years, a Wayne Rooney England shirt, and shirts from Bradford Bulls, Wakefield Trinity Wildcats rugby league, Yorkshire CC and the England cricket team.

"It was a brilliant night," said Mr Dickinson, who also thanked businesses, including Edward Foster and Howdens Joinery in Bradford, for their generosity in donating raffle prizes.

There are various other events lined up to boost the fundraising appeal.

Lifelong Bantams supporter Paul Thacker is hosting a charity day at his bar in Benidorm on May 10. The 45-year-old, of Great Horton, owns Foley's Bar in the holiday resort. He moved to Spain eight years ago.

"I have got some of Benidorm's top entertainers, including singers and a comedian, to perform at the event," said Mr Thacker. "The performers have given their time for free.

"I was originally hoping to raise 1,000 Euros for the charity, but with raffles and extras we have already held, we already have more than 500 Euros to start with."

Mr Thacker said he had attended a number of City games in the weeks leading up to the fire, but on the actual day he was being taken to his grandparents in Morecambe - where he lived at the time - and heard the news on the radio.

City's kit man John Duckworth, also a lifelong Bantam, will walk from Lincoln City's Sincil Bank ground to Valley Parade ahead of City's final home league match of the season against Barnsley on April 25.

Lincoln were City's opponents on the day of the tragedy, May 11, 1985.

It is the third time he will have completed the 73-mile trek, having walked from Bradford to Lincoln in 2011, and made the return journey the following year.

Mr Duckworth, who was at Valley Parade on the day of the fire, said: "I'm aiming to do it in around 23 hours. There will always be a link between the two clubs, and we will be starting in the Stacey and West Stand at Sincil Bank, which was named after the two Lincoln fans who passed away.

"I've done the walk before, but obviously it's bigger this time with this being the 30th year since the fire."

A number of Barnsley fans will meet Mr Duckworth at Tong School in Bradford to walk the last five miles of the route together.

Mr Duckworth's BantamsTrek group have raised more than £30,000 for the Bradford Burns Unit and Macmillan Cancer Care in the last year. To donate, visit justgiving.com/Bantamstrek2015.

Money can be donated directly to the Burns Unit appeal at fire-anniversary.brad.ac.uk/donate/.