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Racing fan uses winnings to buy Christmas presents for seriously ill children

Wed 8 Dec 2021

By Graham Clark

A kind-hearted racegoer who set up a Christmas toy appeal for seriously ill children after winning £3,000 from two bets at Cheltenham last month has been left “overwhelmed” by the response of fellow racing fans after receiving more than 500 gifts.

CJ Cooper, 22, from Henfield in West Sussex, landed the four-figure sum from a treble and a Lucky 31, in which four out of her five selections won.

 CJ spent all her Cheltenham winnings on presents (Photo: CJ Cooper, Twitter)
CJ spent all her Cheltenham winnings on presents (Photo: CJ Cooper, Twitter)

Having already purchased Christmas gifts for her family, CJ decided to put the rest of her winnings towards gifts for a children’s hospice after responding to a post on Twitter.

After sharing a picture of the presents she purchased with her winnings, CJ received a number of messages from members of the public and the racing community wishing to donate toys and gifts.

In response to the messages the Kempton Park and Sandown Park regular created a wishlist on Amazon for those keen to get behind the campaign.

As a result CJ has had bundles of presents delivered to her home, which will now be split between the Chestnut Tree House Children’s Hospice in Arundel, the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital in Brighton, the Shooting Star Children’s Hospice in Guildford and the Naomi House Children’s Hospice in Newbury.

CJ said: “I won a bet a few Sundays ago at Cheltenham. I had four out of my five come up in a Lucky 31 and also had a treble come in and I won about £3,000.

“It was the one I was most sure about, Put The Kettle On, that let me down in my Lucky 31 as if that had come up we would have been talking about thousands more pounds.

“I’d already got all my Christmas presents for my family and there wasn’t anything I wanted but I randomly saw a tweet from a children’s hospice about Christmas gifts and I asked if they were collecting, so I spent all of that money on gifts and toys.

“About 5,000 people follow me on Twitter and they are all horsey type people and I got a lot of likes from the picture of the presents. It was then that I thought I could use this to inspire others.

“There was a suggestion of setting up an Amazon wishlist as a lot of people were asking for it. I set one up and just added gifts on there that were all £10 or less as I know times are tough for a lot of people.

“The number of presents that have come through my door has been crazy. I didn’t realise people would be this generous. I thought a couple of people might send a few gifts through but I didn’t think it would be this popular.”

Among those who have donated presents are Flat jockey Gemma Tutty, while CJ has also received £1,000 from a Grade One-winning owner, who wishes to remain anonymous but was keen to support the campaign.

She added: “I’ve had an ex-jockey donate along with current jockey Gemma Tutty. Another jockey got in touch on Instagram and asked to donate to charities of my choice and they donated £250 to four separate charities.

“I had one owner message me asking if he could send some money. I was expecting £50 to be in there but when I checked my bank he’d put in £1,000.

“What I did with all the money was buy the portable DVD players that one hospice had prioritised. Although I started this, most of it is down to the generosity of the racing community.

“I’m a nobody in racing but it is nice feeling that people have trusted me with the money and toys.”

 Gifts delivered to the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital in Brighton (Photo: CJ Cooper, Twitter)
Gifts delivered to the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital in Brighton (Photo: CJ Cooper, Twitter)

Although CJ still has plenty of gifts to wrap up she has already dropped off her first batch of presents to the Shooting Star House Hospice in Hampton, which she admits was an emotional experience.

She said: “I went to the Shooting Star House Hospice in Hampton and this little boy of about eight came up to me and asked if he could open his present early.

“The nurses told me he had a life-threatening condition and that he might not make it to Christmas and I didn’t know what to say to that.

“I said the big box is one for you as it had all the superhero stuff in he liked. He was so excited when he saw it all. I’ve never been in a situation like it.

“At first I didn’t want to go in, which was cowardly as I didn’t know how these children would react, but they are all so much braver than me.

“It is great being a small part of this together with everyone who has donated presents to help cheer them up.”

With her toy appeal proving a success CJ, who is a big fan of Flat jockey Jim Crowley, is now collecting boxes of chocolates for the nurses at the various hospices as a thank you for all the hard work they do.

She added: “As well as the children I’m collecting chocolates for the nurses as they do a sterling job and it is nice to sort out a gift or two for them as well.

“You have got to be a really compassionate person to do the job they do. Each and every one of them are special.

“There is so much negativity on social media and I’ve had it myself so it is nice to see something positive come from it. Even if people don’t donate but just share a tweet to help spread the message it helps.”

Anyone wishing to donate to the appeal can do so by contacting CJ on Twitter or by accessing the Amazon wishlist.

We are delighted to launch the 2021 Winter Season Ticket, giving you FREE entry at selected fixtures between October and December! Click here for more details.

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