A kind-hearted Derbyshire man has been cheering up friends and family during lockdown by reciting one joke every day, for 100 days – with money raised from the challenge being donated to Treetops Hospice Care, in Risley.

Derby County fan Matthew Harker, 33, from West Hallam – who works as a midday supervisor and volunteers at St Andrew’s Academy, in Derby two days a week, and has volunteered at Treetops charity shop in Ilkeston for the past nine years – has already raised more than £500 for the charity, which provides end-of-life care for people in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.

Matthew has learning difficulties and Dyspraxia; a developmental disorder of the brain which causes difficulty in activities requiring coordination and movement.

I really wanted to cheer people up

Matthew said: “When lockdown started, I felt anxious. Everything which I enjoyed doing stopped; volunteering in the Treetops shop, working at St Andrews, watching Derby County, air shows and motor racing at Silverstone.

“I had to change my routine, but I gradually got used to going for walks, cleaning the car, gardening and baking.

Why did the turkey cross the road twice?

“I really wanted to cheer people up, though, and have always loved telling jokes. Every year, for Christmas, my family buy me a new joke book. My favourite one is ‘Why did the turkey cross the road twice? To prove he wasn’t a chicken!’

“My mum recorded me telling a few jokes and posted it on her Facebook page, so that friends and family could see it.

“A friend suggested creating a JustGiving page and raising money for Treetops Hospice Care at the same time. My mum and sister helped me to do that and we called the challenge #100jokesin100days.”

A very caring person who loves to help

Mum Julie, a teaching assistant at St Andrew’s School, in Breadsall Hilltop, is understandably proud of her son.

She said: “Matthew has always been a very caring person who loves to help.

“He is notorious for making people smile with his cheeky one-liners and I was not at all surprised when he said that he wanted to cheer people up by telling jokes, and that he also wanted to raise money for Treetops whilst the shop was closed.

“Life in lockdown was tough to start with, as I’m sure it was for everyone. Matthew really struggled but, over time, he settled into a different, new routine at home and I’m extremely proud of his achievements.”

Julie – and husband, David Harker; a retired BT engineer – also praised Treetops for enabling Matthew to undertake volunteering work with them.

It gives him a purpose in life

“Matthew really started to grow in lots of ways when he started volunteering. It gives him a purpose in life,” added Julie.

“We have always been grateful to Treetops for giving Matthew the opportunity to volunteer at the shop in Ilkeston. The manager, Elaine Sowter, is absolutely amazing and really understands how to get the best out of Matthew. Without her it would not be the success that it is.”

Treetops provides nursing care and emotional support for adults with life-limiting conditions such as cancer, motor neurone disease and heart and respiratory conditions.

Treetops is doing all it can to continue to support those in most need. However the charity predicts a huge loss in income in the coming months, due to the temporary closure of all their charity shops, and postponement or cancellation of many fundraising events.

The hospice launched an Emergency Appeal earlier this year.