Emmerdale’s Kelli Hollis (Ali Spencer) discusses upcoming charity events (EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW)

by Anna Howell

Emmerdale has always been renowned for its unfaltering, tireless charity campaigns, with many of the stars regularly taking time out of their busy schedules to get involved in whatever they can to help raise money for good causes.

Emmerdale actress, Kelli Hollis, is a shining example of this!  Patron of the charity Ruddi’s Retreat, Kelli has helped arrange and organise a huge and wide selection of events to help raise money for this very worthwhile and humble charity.

Ruddi Waterworth-Jones was six and a half months old when he became ill.  After taking him to and from doctors, he was finally diagnosed with Rhabdomarsacoma, a Cancer of the soft tissue.  From then until recently, Ruddi has undergone an abundance of treatments for this, both in the UK and in the USA, for this illness and to treat some of the many serious side effects that major surgery and therapy had on his small body.  Now in remission, Ruddi still suffers the consequences of his illness daily, but his strength throughout his ordeal shows that his strength of character will not let this hold him back.  To read Ruddi’s full story, click here.

Ruddi’s Retreat was set up by Ruddi’s mother, Alison, in order to help provide children suffering with serious illness like Ruddi, and their families a respite place, a place where they could find little time away from the reality of treatments, or care.  Their aim was to raise enough money to buy a holiday home at a seaside resort on the east coast, which has now come true due to a very generous man, who, out of the kindness of his heart bought them their first caravan, which is situated at Primrose Valley.  However, much,much more needs to be done in order to get it up and running, and keep it that way.

There are several events, and opportunities for people to get involved with in order to help the dream become a reality and stay that way.  Many of the Emmerdale cast have been or are already involved in helping raise money for this cause, including the recent coast to coast bike ride, but there are still many ways you can help too!

On December 30th these years, there is a sponsored Husky Dog Sled walk across The Humber Bridge, which has been closed especially for the occasion. The walk will take place from 10am, and anyone who would like to do the walk and has a sled dog breed, i.e. – Siberian husky, Alaskan malamute. Samoyed, Northern Inuit – Can register at www.northernwolf.co.uk.

They will then be sent an email with an attached sponsor form. The aim is to collect sponsorship for them to walk over the bridge with their dogs. All money will be paid through the just giving page set up also at northernwolf.

This event has been organised by Faye Bailey, a keen Husky breeder, who, having suffered the effects of serious illness, both with herself and other family members, has become a passionate supporter of Ruddi’s Retreat, to sponsor her in this amazing event, please click here.

We spoke to Kelli to find out a little more about this event, and her involvement in this amazing charity.

How did you come to be Patron of Ruddi’s Retreat?

“I met Alison and Ruddi when I did my fort trip to Lap Land last year Nicola Wheeler (who plays Nicola King) has been going for a few years and when I first joined Emmerdale she mentioned it and asked me if I would be interested in going.  Alicya Eyo (who plays Ruby) came with me, but I was a bit sort of dubious about going as it is one of those things that you always see and think how it’s such an amazing place to go and thing to do, but having kids as well you kind of think ‘am I going to be alright’ – I thought I would just be crying all day to be honest.  There was a couple of occasions where I did have to go off and have a little word with myself, but I just found it such an amazing day, amazing kids and the parents of these kids are just out of this world, you can’t even go there in your mind to think what they are going through.

“So I met Alison and Ruddi in Lap Land then a little while later Alison brought Ruudi into work, as he was actually playing an extra in a school visit scene in Emmerdale.  We got chatting again and it was lovely to see them both, then about a week later Alison gave me a call and asked me if I would like to be the patron of Ruddi’s Retreat, which I gladly accepted and I was really honoured that she asked me.

“This is a really personal charity, and I know that times are hard these days, but a couple of quid really can go a long way, after all pennies make pounds, and the most minimum of contributions really van make a huge difference.  So if you can give anything, whether it be a pound or a fiver, whatever you have knocking about in your purse, please go on to the website (insert website link here) and give what you can, and keep an eye out for all the stuff that’s going on, there’s plenty of ways for people to get involved.  The nice thing about this is because it’s such a specific, and personal charity, you know exactly where every penny is going.  These days there are so many huge organisations, which all do fantastic work, but are so big the money goes directly into administration, and I think that puts people off sometimes.  But with a nice little charity like this one, people know that there money will directly make a difference.”

What can you tell us about the Dog Walk in December?

“It’s a walk across the bridge (insert bridge name here) for people who have Husky dogs in support of the Retreat.  It is the latest in a long line of events to raise money, Alison has really gone to town, there is an event every other week, whether it be small or large, she just uses every resource possible really.”

How many Emmerdale staff have you got involved with Ruddi’s Retreat  since you have been Patron?

“Obviously Alicya has been involved, the guys at work have recently done a coast to coast bike ride, crew as well.

“Everyone has really given it their all, especially a guy called Sean Healey who is one of the crew, he organised the bike ride, and he has just gone above and beyond, always asking ‘what more can we do?’.  It really is so encouraging because everyone at work is so busy all the time, especially the crew, who already work so much harder than the rest of us.  So for them to be wanting to get involved it is amazing.  Emmerdale have always done a lot for charity, and there were a few things they had organised without deciding on a charity, but when they found I was the Patron of Ruddi’s Retreat that was that.  Now whenever anyone hears about it they all want to know what they can do to get involved, what events they can hold.  There is a Sex And The City night next weekend going on and all the girls at work are absolutely gutted because none of us can make it as we are busy doing rehearsals and night shoots in preparation for the anniversary week.  But because there are so many things going on, it makes it so much more accessible for people to get involved.  There really is such a wide variety of ways to help, from the Dog Walk and Sex And The City night, to all sorts of things, we have even just made a calendar, with us posing naked with sunflowers and things to cover the rude bits!

“Emmerdale really puts its heart into charity, and they never expect any recognition for it.  Chris Chittell, who plays Eric Pollard, for example really gives it his all.  There really aren’t enough hours in the day for that man for all that he does for charity.  He has been at it for years, and has raised thousands, probably millions for good causes.  Every other day he is doing something, even the London Marathon this year, he is always getting involved, and he is just an absolute inspiration.  That is one of the biggest bonuses of my job, having the sort of face and status that means you can help raise awareness more, to be able to tell people what a great charity it is, and spread the word, it really is a great position to be in.  For example, when the lads did the bike ride, a few of us went over to meet them at the finish line.  I had my mum with me, and after the race we took a walk along the beach, and I was wearing my Ruddi’s Retreat sweatshirt, and so people were stopping me and asking me about it, and so for one day only I thought I am going to be cheeky and charge people £1 for photos.  People were so generous, one family gave £20, and I ended up coming away with an extra £43 for the fund.”

Are you taking part in the Dog Walk in December?

“I haven’t got a dog, but my friend Gayle has got an Akita which I think falls into the same category as Husky, so I am hoping that she will come with me and get involved.”

For more information on how to donate, or get involved with one of the many events taking place in order to raise money for Ruddi’s Retreat, click here.