Former Middlesbrough footballer Colin Cooper and his wife Julie are set to bring to an end 12 years of charity fundraising in memory of the two-year-old son they lost in a tragic choking accident – but plan to ensure it goes out with a bang.
The Finlay Cooper Fund has raised more than £600,000 for children’s causes across Teesside since it was set up by in August 2006.
Now they have a six-figure sum they are keen to invest in a legacy project that will exist as a permanent memory of their son who would have been 19 last week.
The couple lost Finlay in January 2002, shortly after Colin had returned home after playing in Middlesbrough’s FA Cup win over Manchester United.
They set up the children’s charity in his name in 2006, kicking off the fund by donating cash raised at Colin’s Middlesbrough testimonial match against Italian side Chievo.
With the support of trustees Nick Waites, Graham Fordy and Lee Bramley, the fund has gone on to support a wide range of children’s causes including hospices and vital equipment for local children.
Julie said: “Finlay would have been 19 now and we started the fund in his name as a charity for children, so we all feel that the time is right to bring the fundraising to a close.
“We are sad about it but we are really, really proud of what we’ve achieved, of this area and the way local people have supported us.”
Colin added: “We are a small charity of just five people, each of us doing what we can in our spare time, so we couldn’t be prouder to have raised £600,000 in our son’s name.
“We’ve done it with the help of so many people out there but most of all our three loyal trustees – Nick, Lee and Graham – without whom we wouldn’t have been able to achieve a fraction of what we have.
“But we feel that this a natural conclusion, that it’s the right thing to do.”
Colin, Julie and the trustees remain grateful to all those who have supported the fund over the years, with events including bi-annual Dragonfly Ball and sportsmen’s dinners.
More than £100,000 was raised when Colin, Graham and Nick led a group of fundraisers including Sky Sports presenter Jeff Stelling and former Middlesbrough player Craig Hignett to the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro.
Now, however, the couple have agreed with the charity’s trustees to bring the fundraising to an end.
But to ensure the Finlay Cooper Fund goes out on a high, they are looking for a permanent children’s project to support with a six-figure sum that will stand as a lasting legacy to their much-missed son.
Colin added: “We’ve always tried to fund smaller, specific children’s projects and then last year we donated about £32,000 towards a caravan to allow disadvantaged local families to enjoy short breaks in Filey.
“But we want the charity to go out with a big bang so we’d like to fund something bigger to create a legacy that carries Finlay’s name on it and the charity’s dragonfly emblem that our family has adopted in Fin’s memory.
“That would be a fitting tribute to Finlay and all that’s been achieved in his name over the past 12 years.”
Charities and organisations interested in applying for a six-figure sum to support a long-term legacy project should email email@example.com by the end of January 2019.
• Pictured above: Colin and Julie Cooper at Middlesbrough FC’s Riverside Stadium with Finlay Cooper Fund trustees, from left, Nick Waites, Graham Fordy and Lee Bramley.