Selfless soldier from High Peak swaps holiday prize to feed homeless

Elysia Martin and Rochelle from The Saturdays after day one of filming for the new Christmas advert

Elysia Martin and Rochelle from The Saturdays after day one of filming for the new Christmas advert

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A kind-hearted Harpur Hill woman who puts others first has won a national competition but instead of keeping the prize for herself has swapped it to feed 100 homeless people.

On Monday Elysia Martin thought she was being driven to watch her brother in a taekwondo match but instead she was met with a film crew for a new very.co.uk advert and Rochelle Hulme from The Saturdays was there to greet her.

The 27-year-old said: “I walked in and saw cameras and everyone shouted surprise and all I could think was I’d ruined someone’s birthday and I wasn’t meant to be there.”

Elysia, from Berwick Road, has been in the army for four years serving with the 29th regiment in Gloucestershire and spends her free time giving clothes and toiletries to homeless shelters.

She was nominated by her dad Paul as the online shop wanting to give a gift to someone who is always giving to others and fought off 37,000 other entries for her prize which was meant to be a holiday.

However her parents and best friend knew she would not accept a holiday so the company agreed to feed 100 homeless people a full Christmas dinner.

Elysia said: “I’m so glad they did that for me. I can go on holiday anytime but knowing there are hungry people out there who need to eat I would never have been able to enjoy myself. When you are in a position to help others you should.”
The family had to keep her win a secret and on Monday travelled down to the shelter where she helps out. Very.co.uk filmed a short interview with Paul then got Elysia’s reaction. The meal for the homeless will be on Sunday and is being done by professional caterers in a marquee with heaters and being filmed for the advert which will be shown on Saturday, December 17.

Elysia said: “It all feels a bit mad and hasn’t sunk in yet.

“People keep congratulating me on winning and thanking me for everything I have done to help others but that is just who I am. I shouldn’t be rewarded for helping people.”
Last year when Elysia was on tour in Africa she helped out in an orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya where she met a little boy with HIV and a hole in his heart. She later ran the Nairobi marathon to raise funds for his treatment and his medicine has fixed his heart problem,.

She added: “I think Very have even been in contact with the orphanage and are trying to get a minibus out there on my behalf to help the children which is just amazing.”

Elysia’s mum, Debbie Martin said she was stunned when she found out what her daughter had won.

She said: “Her dad put her up for it never thinking she would win and if she did it would only be a voucher or something. She has just bought a house so needs basic things like a microwave. We didn’t expect it to be a holiday. She would never have felt comfortable doing that so we asked if the prize could be changed and they more than willing.”