Members and staff at Bannatyne Health Clubs across the North East have come together to help hundreds of children in the developing world receive life-changing surgery.

All the Bannatyne health clubs held a range of events during a dedicated Smile Week which raised £33,718.55 with members and staff getting involved.

The clubs have embraced the charity and its objectives – £150 can fund a  life-changing cleft operation for a child.  This collective effort has transformed the lives of more than 220 children, bringing each child the chance to live their lives to the full.

Duncan Bannatyne, who is an ambassador of the charity, recently visited Philippines with Operation Smile, following previous trips to Mexico, Vietnam and Ghana to see for himself the life-changing work being carried out by the charity.

On his visits Duncan witnessed some of the operations first-hand and got to know many of the parents and children who the charity is helping.

Gabby Whitehorn, Duncan’s daughter, has been involved with the Students Programme with Operation Smile after taking part in three missions with Duncan and his wife Nigora.

Anthony Elliott, operations director of The Bannatyne Group, said: “Duncan is a proud supporter of Operation Smile and each year the health clubs get involved in Smile Week to raise money and awareness for the charity.

“We are delighted to have been able to make such a significant contribution to a worthwhile and life-changing project and would like to say a huge ‘thank-you’ to our members and staff for helping to achieve a record-breaking figure.”

Karen Jaques, chief executive officer of Operation Smile UK, said: “Smile Week was an outstanding success and the Group’s generous efforts will forever change the lives of 224 children and their families.

“We are thrilled that our partnership with The Bannatyne Group continues to inspire and motivate staff and club members all over the country. On behalf of Operation Smile, and the children who will now receive surgery, I would like to say a huge thank you to Duncan, his family, to The Bannatyne Group and to each of the clubs involved.”

Operation Smile is an international medical charity with a presence in more than 40 countries, whose network of more than 6,000 medical volunteers from over 80 countries is dedicated to helping improve the health and lives of children. Since its founding in 1982, Operation Smile has provided more than 300,000 free surgeries to children and young adults born with cleft lip, cleft palate and other facial deformities. To build long-term self-sufficiency in resource poor environments, Operation Smile trains doctors and local medical professionals in its partner countries so they are empowered to treat their local communities. Operation Smile also donates medical equipment, supplies and provides year-round medical treatment through its worldwide centres.