A Northampton community activist has joined celebrities - including Bear Grylls, Ellie Simmonds and Ainsley Harriott - in backing a viral campaign to say 'Thank you' across the UK on July 4.
The campaign is calling on people to mark the day by joining their neighbours, friends and family in a huge nationwide thank you to those in local communities who have helped residents through the coronavirus pandemic.
Leading the Northampton Thank You Day campaign is community activist, Laura Graham who has made life changing community connections and would like to give thanks for the little neighbourly things that have helped her through the crisis.
Laura said: “I was living alone in Northampton and feeling lonely and disconnected from the community. So I went to the Eden Project Community Camp and learnt of The Big Lunch initiative. I was inspired and determined to make contact with my neighbours and wrote a letter to them saying that I didn’t know anyone and wanted to bring us together.
"Luckily, within half an hour, I had two neighbours supporting the idea. That was in 2017 and we’ve held a Big Lunch every year since. It’s been one of the most life changing things I’ve ever done because it has connected me with people I’d never have met and created a sense of safety and community."
People and organisations up and down the country have been coming up with their own ideas for how to make 'Thank You Day' special. Plans already in place include getting together for a street party or picnic over a Big Lunch, special park runs or raising a glass to say 'Cheers for Volunteers' at 5pm.
Laura continued: “Because we’ve built these neighbourly connections, every Big Lunch feels like a thank you day but, for this year in particular, I’d like to thank everyone for all of the little things that they’ve done during the year. The smiles and socially distanced waves, notes through the door, I’ve even had cake left on my doorstep – just the little things that have made a huge difference to everyone.
"Even tiny things mean so much to us and that’s what I want to say thank you for. We’re planning a Thank You day Big Lunch on 4 July, which will take place on our street and involve the wider neighbourhood too and it will hopefully kick start that human connection that we’ve missed so much over the past year.”
Amongst the tens of thousands of people who have signed up to call for the national 'Thank You' day is May Parsons - the nurse who delivered the UK's first Covid vaccination jab in Coventry in December.
She said: "Thank You Day gives me the opportunity to thank all my amazing colleagues working in the NHS and social care. This has been the toughest year of our professional careers and you have all worked so hard to treat all the sick patients who came through our doors, while delivering the biggest and most successful vaccination programme in NHS history.
“I want to thank the incredible volunteers who gave up their time to support us and those in their communities who needed help. I am so grateful for all the people who kept us going: the school teams who looked after our children, shop staff, transport and delivery workers. We couldn’t have done it without you.
"I am incredibly proud of our staff and our volunteers, and I want to encourage everyone to take part in Thank You Day in any way that you can.”
This viral campaign has now been backed by household names including the Archbishop of Canterbury, actor Michael Sheen, astronaut TimPeak, paralympian Ellie Simmonds, adventurer Bear Grylls and chef Ainsley Harriott.
Celebrities have been shouting out those they want to hank in a video released for the launch of the 'Thank you' day campaign.
Chief scout, Bear Grylls, said: “The last year has been challenging for all of us. But we’ve got through it by pulling together and by helping each other. In fact I believe this crisis has shown us that our communities are much stronger than people think.
"So one of the few good things to come out of all of this is we each have lots of people to say thank you to. I’ll be saying a huge thank you to my family and to our incredible scout volunteers."
The campaign has been backed by dozens of national organisations including the Scouts, Girlguiding, Royal Voluntary Service, the Football Association, the NHS and the Together coallition.
A spokesperson for the Together coalition said: "A national Thank You Day gives us all a chance to mark the end of this phase of the crisis and say thank you to everyone who helped us through. So many of us want that chance. But it also gives us an opportunity to look forward, to help remind us what matters and how we want to stay connected to each other in the future.”
Visit the Together Coalition's website to find out more information about Thank You Day.