SANTA got into shape for Christmas – and raised more than £1,000 for a sick youngster in South Tyneside.
Christmas hats and fairy wings were the order of the day when festive fitnes fanatics staged a boot camp on Saturday to raise cash for South Shields baby Charlie Cookson.
Personal trainer Lee Tiffin, who runs Black Sheep Fitness Academy, organised the event in aid of the youngster, who has a range of medical problems, including loss of vision, a brittle bone disease, a blood disorder and epilepsy.
The 31-year-old, from Midhurst Avenue, South Shields, came up with the idea after reading stories about the 19-month-old tot in the Gazette.
He rang Charlie’s parents, Sarah and Chris Cookson, and put the idea to them before meeting up with the family.
The father-of-one, who is married to Eilish, said: “I do a charity bootcamp every year, and after reading all the stories about Charlie in the Gazette, I wanted to do something to help him.
“I met up with Charlie and his parents and it really opened my eyes to think of what he’s already been through. Charlie couldn’t come down today because he’s just got out of intensive care so we’re just wishing him all the best.”
The hour-long fitness camp took place at Brinkburn Community Association in McAnany Avenue, South Shields.
About 100 people took part and each of them were asked to donate at least £5 towards the cause. So far the event has raised £1,200, but more money is expected. The money will be used to help build a sensory room for Charlie at his home in Simonside, South Shields.
Mr Tiffin added: “The boot camp was hard work but really fun with lots of Christmas-themed games and activities.”
Charlie, who weighed 5lbs 6.5oz when he was born, spent his first year in hospital and only came home the day before his first birthday.
He spent the first two months of his life in the special care baby unit as doctors tried to stabilise his weight and fight off an unknown infection.
Since then, he has overcome E. coli, meningitis and a bacterial infection called pseudomonas.
Mrs Cookson said: “Charlie isn’t doing very well at the minute. He’s been back in hospital and was in intensive care but he came out on Friday.
“He’s waiting to have more tests done.”
“When you’re in hospital all the time you feel a bit detached from the world, but the support we’ve been getting is amazing, and just to know that Charlie is in people’s thoughts is so heart-warming.”
She added: “We’d never even met Lee. For him to put on this event is unreal.
“We’re really grateful and we just can’t believe how supportive people are being. Thank you to everyone.”
For more information about Mr Tiffin’s boot camp or to sign up, go to www.blacksheepfitnessacademy.com