A Teesside lawyer hopes his donation to a group of schoolchildren has given them an experience that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.
Nick Mack, founder and managing director of Macks Solicitors, donated £3,000 to help students from St Peter’s Catholic Voluntary Academy in South Bank join the annual Middlesbrough Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes.
Teacher Amy Glanville was one of three members of staff who travelled by coach with nine year-nine and ten children aged from 13 to 15, including some who were assisted by the donation.
“I’m overwhelmed by Nick’s generosity,” said Amy. “The students here are so kind, friendly and humorous and it’s an absolute privilege to work with them.
“Nick was moved by some of their personal situations and it’s lovely to see that people outside of the school, who don’t know them personally, can feel such empathy and show such love.
“His gift enabled many of them to go to Lourdes who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.
“The opportunity he has so freely given them will stay with them for the rest of their lives and possibly shape their future. All I can say, from the bottom of my heart, is thank you.”
The St Peter’s students joined other children on a rota to help look after the 87 supported pilgrims – also known as VIPs – who stayed in the specially equipped hospital in Lourdes and in hotels.
The VIPs travelled on two chartered flights from Teesside Airport on Friday May 27, along with helpers, teams of doctors and nurses, and clergy including Bishop of Middlesbrough the Rt Rev Terence Patrick Drainey.
The students enjoyed a day trip to a lake during their week-long pilgrimage, which also included daily Masses, processions and youth prayer events.
“At first they were really nervous about the work they would be doing in Lourdes but by the end of the week they were devastated to be leaving,” said Amy.
“We called into the hospital one evening and sat chatting to the VIPs and they made firm friendships. Many of our young people stay in touch with them after they return home.”
Nick usually helps in the hospital as a volunteer “brancardier” but was unable to join the pilgrimage this year.
“My family and I have got so much from Lourdes over the years, so it’s wonderful to be able to sponsor kids who wouldn’t otherwise have this opportunity,” he said.
“It’s valuable on so many different levels, from experiencing a different culture to the rich spiritual benefits and the rewards that come from being able to help other people.”
During his visit to St Peter’s to present the money, Nick decided to give a further £1,000 to the school’s hardship fund.
The students gave Nick a round of applause after being told why he was there.
He told them: “Have a lovely time. Take it all in, enjoy it and say lots of prayers.”
A total of around 800 people took part in the pilgrimage, including 220 young people and three men who travelled by land in a van carrying equipment.
• Pictured (above): Nick Mack with the St Peter’s students who went to Lourdes. The photo was taken in the school’s chapel, with a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes, a replica of the one in the Lourdes Grotto, behind them.