Derek Ions, 73, from Bedlington , has sold his sticks to raise money for the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) over the last seven years. Mr Ions believes he will have raised in excess of 30,000 for the helicopter charity in that time. He last night won praise from the charity and from regular customer the Duchess of Northumberland , with the former saying his efforts will have saved someones life. Derek, who lives at Acomb Court, began making countrified walking sticks at the age of 14, having grown up on a farm and enjoyed woodwork at school. View gallery Charity fundraiser Derek Ions meets the Duchess View gallery He has done so as hobby ever since, making them at his home, mainly in his garage. Over the years, he reckons 1000's of medical flights he will have made thousands. For the last seven years, Derek has produced them in order to sell them for the air ambulance, choosing the charity after it saved the life of his nieces son who fitted while at school in Rothbury . Derek has sold his sticks at a variety of locations, including the duchess Alnwick Garden attraction , with the aristocrat one of his best customers. Over the years, his sticks have also been snapped up by clients as far afield as America and he has been contacted by Harrods in London wanting to sell them. This year he will be selling at the garden every Monday and Tuesday from June 9. Derek will also be a presence at country shows across Northumberland this summer, including Mondays County Show. Last year alone, he raised 7,500 - 5,000 of which came from his stints at the garden. And in all Derek claims he has raised over 30,000 over the years. He said: I am not bothered as long as it is doing a bit of good. I just thought it was time to pay something back. Derek has been applauded by both the air ambulance service and the duchess for his fundraising efforts. Mandy Drake, head of fundraising at GNAAS , said: People like Derek are the reason why this service is able to keep flying in the region. He gets on with his fundraising with little fuss or fanfare, but make no mistake, the part he is playing is crucial in supporting our air ambulance. Wed like to thank Derek for all his hard work and his commitment to the cause. I am in no doubt that the money he has raised over the years will have saved someones life. The duchess added: Derek tirelessly gives a great deal of his time to help others, spending hours carefully handcrafting his fantastic walking sticks and then selling them in The Alnwick Garden to raise money for The North East Air Ambulance Service, which he has done for several years.
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