A Selsey family has collected more than £100,000 for the Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal, with an amazing 90 years of service between them.
The family, who all work at the award-winning Bunn Leisure holiday park on the Selsey peninsula, have been involved with the Poppy Appeal since the early 1980s.
Adrian Wilson, 73, served with the Royal Military Police for nearly 23 years before retiring from the Army. He has worked at Bunn Leisure since 2006 alongside his two daughters Kim and Tina, and his wife and two grandsons have also been employed by the holiday park company.
This year will be Adrian’s 35th collecting for the Poppy Appeal, having taken over the organisation of the Selsey collection in 1982.
“I was chairman of the Selsey branch of the Royal British Legion when the secretary came rushing in and told me we couldn’t do the Poppy Appeal that year because the lady who was organising it had had to give up.
“I remember saying: this won’t do – it’s like cancelling Christmas! I said I would do it as chairman for that year and that would give us a year to find somebody permanent. That person turned out to be me!
“That first year was mayhem beyond belief. We didn’t have a clue what we were doing. I drove all the poppies and collecting tins round to my house and said to my wife and daughters, we’ve just got to get this done.
“I started organising it like a military campaign and that was it – I absolutely fell in love with it.”
Adrian resigned his post as chairman and took over as Poppy Appeal Organiser at the next AGM. He has been in that role ever since, increasing the money raised in Selsey from £1,500 that first year to more than £10,000 for the last eight years in a row. Adrian will pick up his 35 years’ long-service award this year.
His daughters Tina and Kim soon followed in their father’s footsteps, both becoming official collectors as soon as they were 16.
“It’s brilliant that the girls are both involved,” says Adrian. “You can’t be an official collector until you are 16 but they helped me every year before they even became teenagers.
“When I presented them both with their 25-year service medals, I told everyone they had actually been doing it a lot longer than that!”
Bunn Leisure has been delighted to help Adrian with his collecting over the years, with Poppy Appeal tins in their on-site shops and reception areas.
For the last six years, Adrian has also donned his blazer, military medals and red beret and stood outside the Embassy Club collecting from the crowds waiting for the doors to open.
“It’s tremendous. I do intend to retire early next year, but I’m keen to keep going back every November if they’ll have me!”
John Bunn, managing director of Bunn Leisure, says: “Of course we’d be delighted to welcome Adrian back to Bunn Leisure in the future.
“It’s always very moving to see him standing outside the Embassy with his medals and red beret, raising money for a cause that’s so close to everyone’s hearts.”
Adrian’s daughters Kim Wilson, 45, a marketing assistant, and Tina Davis, 43, an office manager, have also collected their 25-year service medals.
“The house was always covered in poppies and wreaths at that time of year,” says Kim.
“I was brought up understanding what it was to be in the military and the commitment involved.
“This is a way of saying thank you and giving something back – it’s a few hours every year.
“I will have been doing it for 30 years next year and I can’t imagine ever giving up.”
Tina adds: “Dad is so very proud of it, and that in turn makes us so very proud of him.”
Adrian is indeed proud of the appeal he has supported for so long, and believes Remembrance Day is just as important today as it ever was.
“I served for nearly 23 years and I saw some rather unpleasant things. It’s such a worthwhile cause; it is something that affects us all. We’re remembering those who may not have wished to go anywhere but went anyway and many gave their lives.
“That’s why on the odd occasion I think I can’t do this anymore, I say yes you can you fool, all the time you have two legs and you can breathe just get on with it and stop moaning!”