Cycling enthusiast Chris Riley and his fiancée Elle have been announced as the winners of a campervan offered as the prize in a crowdfunding effort to save Stump Cross Caverns in North Yorkshire.
29 year old Chris, who has been on furlough from his job as a barber in Cross Hills, was diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer last year and told he might live for another two years depending on how he responds to treatment.
He says winning the prize is a huge boost for him and Elle, as they are now able to make plans to travel the UK together safely this summer.
Chris said: “A number of us in the family entered the prize draw after seeing the Stump Cross Caverns appeal on Instagram. I bought one £10 ticket to support their campaign and forgot all about it. Then, on the day the winners were announced, I heard someone called Chris had won, but didn’t think for one minute it would be me. A phone call from my brother Alex, soon followed confirming the good news. Having had a tough 12 months, following my diagnosis, this was the best news ever.
“It makes a nice change to have a run of good luck. I’ve responded well to recent chemotherapy treatment and am hopeful doctors will give me the green light to return to work in the next week or so. Winning the campervan is one of the most amazing things that’s ever happened to me. We’ve now got plenty to look forward to this coming summer.”
Stump Cross Caverns' recent crowdfunding appeal included a chance for supporters to receive entry into a prize draw to win the owner's own campervan worth around £50,000. The appeal has raised almost £70,000, enabling the attraction to reopen in May.
Lisa Bowerman, owner of the ancient limestone caves near Pateley Bridge said: “It was an emotional moment when I heard about Chris’ story and means so much to us to know that our appeal, and the generosity of our supporters, has not only saved the caves from closure and safeguarded our team, but will also help someone who’ll really benefit from this truly amazing prize.”
Stump Cross says it has lost £500,000 by not being able to welcome visitors during the pandemic - and it was unsuccessful in an application for government Covid funding, despite similar attractions around the country getting support from the Culture Recovery Fund. It has now launched a 'Save the Caves' petition which it aims to present to the Chancellor Rishi Sunak.
Lisa adds: “Now that we have raised the funds to reopen and secure jobs we need to focus on the essential maintenance and repairs, including the renewal of the caves lighting system. Income normally generated by our 60,000 annual visitors usually covers this expenditure so to help us overcome this financial shortfall we’re now having to create a new crowdfunder appeal, giving people the chance to win a property we own in nearby Pateley Bridge, valued at almost £130,000.
“It’s a massive blow to us to have to sell another personal possession but we’ve got nowhere else to turn. Unlike other heritage sites, similar to ours, who’ve benefited from funding, we’ve been left to fend for ourselves. Over an 18-year period we’ve worked hard to sustain a successful business, but this pandemic and the associated loss of trade has left us fighting for survival.
“We’re not just fighting to save the caves, we’ve a pivotal role to play in supporting our local and rural economy, as visitors to Stump Cross, which lies at the gateway to the Yorkshire Dales, also boost trade and tourism in the surrounding area. We hope and pray that our petition will be picked up and acted upon by those allocating the funding.”
The ˜Save the Caves” petition is available via https://www.change.org/p/
If you want to support Stump Cross Caverns with a donation head to https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/