MORE than £7,000 has been raised for a family mourning the death of a “beloved” father of five and grandmother described as an "absolute superstar".

Jeff Dunning, 35, was on holiday with his wife Vicki, his childhood sweetheart, in August. They were enjoying a vacation at Lyons Robin Hood in Rhyl [where their family holiday home was located] when Jeff died suddenly surrounded by his loved ones.

The family described the catastrophic event as “shocking” and “heart-breaking”, especially as the late Jeff lost his mother, Joyce Cross, only two weeks prior to this incident on August 20 following a battle with cancer.

Jeff was with his family in the caravan when he felt a sudden chest pain and had to lie down. Vicki attempted CPR before ambulance crews and an air ambulance arrived at the scene, however Jeff sadly died 45 minutes later.

Richard Cross, who owns a caravan at Lyons Robin Hood and is husband to the late Joyce and Jeff’s father, said that Christmas won’t be the same without his wife and son.

Thousands of pounds has been raised to support the family who are from Ellesmere Port; local business, holiday homeowners, and staff at Lyons Robin Hood raised the funds.

In October, a memorial night was hosted by staff and owners at the family-run holiday park to celebrate “two wonderful lives”.

The evening consisted of an auction, drinks reception, raffle, ‘Hood Bingo’, live entertainment, DJ and disco, and a surprise finale.

Jeff Dunning. Picture: GoFundMe/Abigail Ackroyd

Jeff Dunning. Picture: GoFundMe/Abigail Ackroyd

Richard, who attended the event with Joyce’s sister Lorraine, said: “This will go such a long way this Christmas. We can’t thank everyone enough.

“The evening was brilliant, and it was what Joyce would have wanted – she was always the life and soul of the party.”

Michelle Roberts, Lyons Robin Hood sales manager, said: “I can’t begin to think of what Vicki and Richard are going through. Losing anyone is difficult enough, but at such a young age is just devastating. To think of those poor children growing up without a father is just heart-breaking, and it’s just awful to think of them struggling to buy presents at Christmas.

“There’s not much anyone can do to replace two people who were as amazing as Jeff and Joyce. Jeff was always so happy and absolutely doted on his kids, and Joyce was an absolute superstar. They will be greatly missed.

“We decided to do what we could and that was to show Richard and Vicki how much we care for them, and to rally around them as a community when they needed it most. A huge thank you is in order to our incredible sales team at Robin Hood, the Lyons marketing team, Martin Mugglestone from events, and most notably, all the owners who gave so generously on the evening with cash and raffle prizes.”

With the help from businesses in the area, owners at Lyons Robin Hood, staff from multiple departments, and a generous donation from company director Geoff Lyons-Mound, a total of £7,712 was gifted to the Cross family earlier in December.

Beth Hughes, PR executive for the Lyons group who organised the event, said: “The response we received from the appeal was incredible – it goes to show just who is there for you in your time of need.

“Many high street businesses donated raffle prizes, such as The Little Cheesemonger, Blooming Gorgeous, Paris Boutique, Ann’s Scran Van, The Apple Cart, and businesses further afield such as Anglesey Golf Club, Go Below, Lyons Nant Hall, and many more.

“It was touching to see owners using their connections to organise items such as signed boxing gloves, signed football legend photos, and a huge thank you to Deckings Direct who helped facilitate a signed Welsh rugby shirt from Wales’ first team which went for £600 in our owners’ auction. DJ Keith was also incredible on the night, as was the support from Martin Mugglestone, events manager, who poured his heart and soul into this event.

“This was the epitome of ‘team effort’ and we cannot thank everyone enough for their generosity and heartfelt support.”

Richard expressed his gratitude to the team who went “above and beyond” on the evening, especially Louis Morgan, sales counsellor, who helped Richard and Joyce find their dream holiday home many years ago.

A speech was made in memory of the two, with Louis reminiscing about how the family first came to the park, and Joyce’s larger-than-life character.

A tribute was also made to Joyce’s love of music and films by the Lyons Holiday Parks team, in the form of a special choreographed dance to her favourite song, Dirty Dancing’s ‘Time of My Life,’ which was also played at the funeral.

The epic lift wowed crowds as Gavin Taylor, international project manager for the group, traded his builder boots for dancing shoes as he impersonated Patrick Swayze’s well-loved moves.

The £3,856, which was raised both at the charity night and during Lyons Robin Hood’s first ever Party in the Park festival this August, was doubled by Geoff Lyons-Mound who said the gesture was the least he could do “from one family to another at Christmas.”