Keech Hospice Care's Christmas train retires after 25 years - but keep an eye out for Smiley Sam Jnr

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Smiley Sam has clocked up more than 2,100 miles – further than the distance from Luton to Lapland

After 25 years of touring Luton’s streets during the festive season spreading cheer and raising money for Keech Hospice Care, Smiley Sam the Christmas train is to take a well earned retirement.

In that time, he’s travelled more than 2,100 miles — further than the distance from Luton to Lapland! And he’s raised over £900,000 for Keech in the process.

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But fear not — a brand new model, Smiley Sam Jnr, has been built by students of Barnfield College and will be taking over the reins.

Staff at Keech with Smiley Sam jnrStaff at Keech with Smiley Sam jnr
Staff at Keech with Smiley Sam jnr

Marcel Fernandes, head of construction and engineering at Barnfield College, says: “We’ve seen first-hand the great impact that Smiley Sam has had in our local community for the past 25 years, so when Keech Hospice Care approached us for support in getting his successor, Smiley Sam Jnr, ready for the road we were delighted to help.

“Thanks to financial support from The Connolly Foundation to purchase new materials, our students have spent over 600 hours building and kitting out Smiley Sam Jnr to bring the festive cheer this Christmas. It has proven to be a fantastic opportunity for students to work on such an important community project, all the while developing technical skills, problem solving, teamwork and independent working. We will all miss Smiley Sam Jnr’s smiley face around our workshops but can’t wait to see him on the roads around Luton.”

David Oldham, chief operating officer at the Connolly Foundation, says: “We are proud to have supported this brilliant project which will play a big part in future fundraising for Keech. It also gave Barnfield College students the opportunity to show what they can do and contribute to this important local charity.”

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Smiley Sam Jnr starts his inaugural tour on December 1, visiting various locations in Luton, right up to Christmas Eve. Check out his route here. With Santa and a host of merry-making volunteers on board, the new-model will be the annual marker that Christmas is just around the corner.

Claire and her family who have volunteered for Keech for many years, said: “Keech Hospice Care has been part of our family for over 30 years now and the fundraising highlight is December when Smiley Sam, Santa and a band of willing volunteers cover large areas of Luton, providing joy and magic to families, in particular the children. Festive songs, and the chance to meet the man himself — what more can anyone ask for? And the local people are so generous to Keech, as we always raise many thousands of pounds, despite the often atrocious weather!”

Lynn Russell, events manager at Keech Hospice Care, said: “Smiley Sam has been a huge part of Christmas in Luton, loved by adults and children, for so many years. I’m thrilled to have been involved in the creation of Smiley Sam Jnr, and immensely grateful to the students from Barnfield College for their enthusiasm and commitment to the project. We can’t wait to share Smiley Sam Jnr with everyone in the community, to ensure this tradition lives on for many more years to come.”