KENDAL Mountain Rescue Team is celebrating after The Westmorland Gazette's Readers to the Rescue appeal topped its ambitious £40,000 target.

Launched in August, the campaign sought to fund a state-of-the-art new vehicle that will act as a 'mobile base' for the team's heroic volunteers.

From the first week, donations came flooding in to help pay for the vehicle that will allow for better communication on rescues and increase the team's chances of positive outcomes.

Having reached £34,000 through donations from readers and local businesses, it was a grant of £10,000 from the Gannett Foundation that took the campaign past its initial target.

Deputy leader Kath Jackson, who has assisted the Gazette in running the campaign, said that the support the campaign had received had been 'phenomenal'.

"I think humbling is the word," she said. "We've always known that the people of Kendal have supported us but this has exceeded everybody's expectations. It's just been phenomenal."

The Gannett Foundation is the charitable arm of Gannett Co Inc, the parent company of Newsquest Media Group, whose titles include The Westmorland Gazette.

In the last ten years alone, Newsquest has given more than £3million to help charitable community causes all over the country.

"That they thought of a small organisation like us and gave us the money when there's probably loads who apply for it, it's just overwhelming," said Dave Howarth, team leader for the rescue team, who was also keen to thank those who had given smaller donations.

A charity wholly dependent on volunteers and donations to survive, Kendal MRT relies on the support of the community to keep going.

To raise an additional £40,000 for the new vehicle on top of its annual base running costs could have taken the charity 18 months.

Over the course of the campaign, donations have come in from big businesses such as Marks & Spencer and local companies like Gilkes and Anything Technical in Kendal.

There have also been donations in memory of Kendal Mountain Rescue Team supporters, with Kendal-based Diana Barrington giving generously in memory of her father Eric Barrington, who was himself a member of the team.

Staff members from Gilkes donated £2,500 to the fundraiser after they completed the Keswick to Barrow charity walk.

Jo Scott, senior engineer for Gilkes, said: "As a Kendal company we were keen to sponsor Kendal charities. Many of us enjoy exploring the Lakeland fells and hence the Kendal Mountain Search and Rescue Team was a popular choice."

And Kendal South Westmorland Rotary chose to give a generous £750 to the campaign.

President Mike Trelogan said that the club was 'keen' to provide donations at every opportunity.

"Mountain Rescue is an unfunded additional emergency service that fulfils a vital role for the local community and visitors alike," he said. "They need up to date and reliable equipment to provide that valuable service, which is the least the dedicated volunteers deserve."

Over the course of the campaign, reporter Sara Royle spoke to those who had been helped by mountain rescue as well as team members.

One of those interviewed was team member and father Tony Womack and said that vehicle would allow for 'better communication'.

"It's going to be better because it's going to be larger," he said. "When we get on scene it'll be the full control vehicle.

"It will hopefully give people the confidence to know that when we do deploy, we can utilise these vehicles to improve communications and this will hopefully speed up reaction times and get rescue teams closer or at the scene of the incident."

Dave Hughes, chair of Kendal MRT said that it had been 'quite the campaign' that had been run and explained where the funds would be going.

"It's going to mean that we're able to modernise our control vehicle," he said. "We'll be able to manage incidents close to the scene and make the most of the technology in some of the more remote areas where there is limited data connectivity.

"We've got to thank all the generous readers of The Westmorland Gazette for supporting us and supporting mountain rescue. We really couldn't have done what we've done without their generosity and without this campaign."

Andrew Thomas, editor of The Westmorland Gazette, said that reaching the target was the 'perfect' way to round off the year.

"Whenever we run a campaign, I am always blown away by the sheer generosity of our readers," he said. "Yet again, they have gone above and beyond to help the deserving members of Kendal Mountain Rescue Team. I would like to thank each and every person who donated for digging deep to support this worthwhile fundraiser. Myself and the rest of the team at The Westmoralnd Gazette look forward to seeing the new vehicle once it has been bought and kitted out."