Peacehaven charity fundraiser talks about carrying Olympic torch in Eastbourne

Michael Burnage carrying the torch in Eastbourne.
Michael Burnage carrying the torch in Eastbourne.

A CHARITY fundraiser from Peacehaven told the Sussex Express this week how delighted he was to carry the Olympic torch through Eastbourne.

Known as the man who ran the charity Christmas display in Peacehaven, Michael Burnage was thrilled with the honour.

Michael carried the torch in blazing sunshine on Tuesday July 17 and was selected as a ‘local hero’ to represent his home town, after dedicating years to helping others less fortunate than himself, despite his own health problems.

Michael, 44, formerly of Malines Avenue, but who now lives in Saltdean, said: “When I found out that I had been chosen to carry the torch, I was absolutely thrilled.

“To be involved in such an event is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

“As a teenager I remember watching the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, at some unearthly hour, in a holiday cottage in North Cornwall.

“Never for one minute did I think I would ever be involved in such a spectacle.”

After suffering many years of debilitating ill health, in 2000 Michael was registered as disabled and forced to retire from his career.

With the help of medication and determination, he threw himself into raising money for local charities.

He has raised many tens of thousands of pounds for the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital in Brighton, which helped it to pay for vital life saving equipment such as incubators and ventilators.

To acknowledge Michael’s considerable efforts on behalf of the sick children of Sussex, Rockinghorse made him their first ever Ambassador in 2008.

Michael’s charitable efforts were also recognised in 2006 by the Queen when she awarded him the MBE in her New Years Honours list.

In 2007 Michael had the extreme misfortune to suffer a severe brain injury after an unprovoked assault left him unconscious.

To then compound matters, in 2009 he suffered a heart attack which left him requiring surgery. Despite these immense setbacks, he continued to fundraise where possible, and offer help and assistance to anybody who needed it.