Making Memories That Last

by Northern Life


As well as putting on events all year round, the organisation sends children in the county who are experiencing long-term, life-threatening or limiting illnesses, disabilities, mental health issues or social deprivation on breaks with their families to one of the luxury caravans and lodges it owns in the Lakes and Blackpool, and has been doing so since it launched in 2011.

Mike Davies

This amazing cause has brought in more than £1 million from generous donors and provided a much-needed break to 3,700 children based primarily in North and West Yorkshire. However, founder Mike says they have already made headway into expanding their reach to South and East Yorkshire too, something which is a major ambition for the charity in its second decade.

“Over the past ten years we have helped thousands of disadvantaged, disabled and poorly children to escape their everyday troubles and create valuable, happy memories,” smiles Mike, a Londoner by birth who initially moved to the Preston area and then recently to Yorkshire.

Mike receiving his MBE from The Duke of Cambridge in 2017

Whilst living in Lancashire, he founded and became CEO of Skipton-based Principle Healthcare Group and then launched the Principle Trust Children’s Charity. Having semi-retired from the corporate world and now dedicating much of his time to the Trust, Mike and his wife Brenda decided it made sense to base themselves in the county in which the charity does its work.

When I catch up with Mike, he is sitting in the car outside his new house and, in his words, “keeping out of the way of the builders.” He tells me about the book he has recently published, ‘Making Memories That Last’, recounting the stories of some of the families who have been helped by the charity.

However, putting together the book provided a focus for Mike and the Trust during the pandemic when they could not hold events, and it also provides proof to its new prospective partners of how the charity changes lives. The fact that ‘Making Memories That Last’ contains a foreword from a true Yorkshire legend might also help it get in front of the eyes the Trust would like it in front of.

100% of every pound donated goes towards helping disadvantaged children.

“I was invited to a function at the Coniston Hotel with Captain Sir Tom Moore,” says Mike. The Keighley-born fundraiser’s determination to walk 100 laps of his garden before his 100th birthday in aid of NHS charities captured the hearts of a nation in lockdown in 2020. So much so that his intended target of £1,000 was eclipsed by the eventual donations that totalled more than £32 million! At the event held in his honour, Mike was keen to meet Sir Tom. “I had a chat with him and he said he would be only too pleased to have his daughter write the foreword for him. He checked it to make sure it was right.”

In compiling the book, Mike approached families who had been helped by the Principle Trust Children’s Charity to see if they minded their stories being published. The tales of those who agreed now make up the publication, which is a wonderful, heart-warming way of documenting the pure joy that holidays can bring to those who are not lucky enough to be able to take them usually.

The charity’s partners, generally local councils and social services departments, choose the children they feel would benefit most from the provision of a free break. The Principle Trust Children’s Charity then facilitates those trips thanks to the accommodation it owns. It started with two holiday homes in Blackpool at first and has managed to build its portfolio to six properties, wholly owned by the charity. “Three are luxury static caravans on the Haven holiday site in Blackpool,” says Mike, “We now also have three lodges at White Cross Bay on Lake Windermere that have been specially adapted for disabled children should their disability require them to be in a wheelchair.”

Mike is excited about the possibilities of owning multiple places in single locations and talks of his wish to develop community connections. He envisions finding out what the children enjoy doing and then partnering with local attractions and activity centres to provide discounted or free tickets to the families. Currently, the accommodation is free, but families must supply their own food and fund their entertainment. However, the Trust has had some success in working with attractions to provide access already. One of the charity’s main promises is that 100% of every pound donated goes towards helping disadvantaged children, and this is down to how its funding works. Mike Davies is, despite being partially retired, still involved with a couple of businesses. He says: “Those companies, as part of their CSR [Corporate Social Responsibility], provide money on a monthly basis to the charity, which pays for the staff. Therefore, all of the money we raise at Yorkshire-based events – and they are many and numerous and involve lots of different people – goes directly to the charity. All of it is used for charitable work and the families and the holiday homes. None of it is used for administration or staff.”

They were absolutely thrilled; you would have thought they had won the pools!

The book, ‘Making Memories That Last’, is a lovely way to celebrate the story so far, and is the launching pad for the Trust’s big ambitions for the future. Particularly extending the offering of free breaks to disadvantaged and disabled children in the whole of Yorkshire, some of whom will never have been on holiday before. And Mike says that the partners he has approached in South and East Yorkshire so far are overjoyed on behalf of the children they represent.

“They say, ‘We can’t really believe that what you are offering is relevant to us. You are giving away free holidays to underprivileged, disadvantaged and disabled children,’” he recalls, “So we said – ‘that’s what we do!’ They were absolutely thrilled; you would have thought they had won the pools! They were so grateful.”

An extract from Making Memories That Last

The charity received a holiday request from a social worker in the Bradford area requesting that Tony (the dad) and his daughter Julie who was six-years-old could go for a holiday to the Blackpool caravan. The background was that eight months previously Julie’s mum and Tony’s wife Helen had died from cancer. Social services believed that Tony and Julie would really benefit from the holiday, and it would give them something positive to look forward to. The request was also for Helen’s mum and dad (Julie’s grandparents) to go with them on holiday, as it would benefit them to be with their granddaughter and see her having fun. The previous eight months had been a really difficult time for Tony, balancing going to work with looking after Julie. The grandparents lived at the other side of the country to Tony and Julie, so did not get to see their granddaughter very often as they lived so far away. Unfortunately, Tony’s parents had both passed away, so Helen’s Mum and Dad were Julie’s only grandparents.

He also taught her to dive in and swim underwater.

The charity agreed for the family to go to a caravan in Blackpool. The follow up and feedback we got from the grandparents after the holiday was lovely. Julie spent time every day in the swimming pool with her dad, and he taught her to swim properly. He also taught her to dive in and swim underwater. The grandparents explained that seeing Julie so happy, doing so many things like enjoying the playgrounds, going on the swings, going to Blackpool Zoo, and seeing many animals she had never seen before, she particularly liked the sea lions. Going to the beach and riding a donkey, burying her dad in the sand. She preferred the swimming pool to the sea, as the sea was too cold! She and her dad went to The Sandcastle which is a massive indoor swimming pool complex with slides, fountains, wave machines, water chutes, and she had a great time with her dad.

The grandparents enjoyed spending holiday time with their son-in-law and Julie and mentioned how well they bonded and got on. This was a perfect holiday to help Julie and Tony be together and have some smiles and fun. It would never make up for the loss of Helen, but it helped make happy memories. The follow up letter proved to us that what we were doing offering children, whom for whatever reason were underprivileged or disadvantaged a free holiday was right. However, what we were not prepared at all was another letter we received from the grandparents just some six weeks later.

The grandparents were just so grateful that Julie had these special memories to cherish of her holiday…

Julie’s dad Tony had suffered a major heart attack and sadly passed away. Life is just not fair. For Julie to have lost her mum to cancer, then within 10 months to lose her dad to a heart attack is unimaginable. The grandparents said that Julie had now gone to live them, as she has no other relatives or grandparents near to where she lived in Yorkshire. They were doing their best to make the adjustment for her, and trying to help her in her new school, make new friends, and do their best to help her. They were at pains to say how Julie kept talking about the time she and her dad had spent at Blackpool, how she remembered the swimming, the zoo, the sand, and having a great time with her dad. The grandparents were just so grateful that Julie had these special memories to cherish of her holiday with her dad at Blackpool, thanks to The Principle Trust Charity.

Making Memories That Last is available to order on Amazon, via the Trust’s website or by emailing

NorthernLife May/June 2022