When it comes to giving to charity, there’s always a point of connection, an experience, a deep-seated memory that drives that desire to help.

David’s story helps explain this. David is a donor. He’s in his early seventies and is retired. His children are grown up and he’s recently become a grandfather.

Along with his wife, they have moved away from London and settled in Devon. He describes himself as “very comfortably off”. He feels he is lucky. He has a good pension along with a significant amount of savings. He goes on two or three foreign holidays each year and is planning a “big trip” with his oldest daughter and new granddaughter.

And he is fit and healthy. His passion is the sea. He regularly swims and when the weather is fair, he takes his kayak out to explore some of the hidden coves and beaches near where he lives.

He gives a significant amount to a few children’s charities. His gifts easily amount to more than a thousand pounds each year.

When asked why he supports them, he started off by sharing his thoughts about how things were tough for children today. Having come from a relatively modest background, he recognised the difficulties that families trying to navigate the cost-of-living crisis were facing. He was brought up in a house with one hot tap, no bath or shower and no central heating. The oven served as the heater in the kitchen in the winter months. When he got up in the morning, he used to warm his feet by its open door before washing in the kitchen sink.

But he was a bright lad and had done well at school. He enjoyed his time in the south London comprehensive school and had a good group of friends and an even bigger group of people who he knew on a nodding acquaintance. He recounted a few names and described some of his “gang of mates”. There was Gerald, who had done well. He’d been a quantity surveyor. And Robin. He had started out on the railways straight from school and ended up as a senior manager.

And then he mentioned Kevin. He used his full name. “Kevin Mellor”. He paused and then said, “Kevin Smeller”. A slight smile on his lips. “God, he smelled.” he said, “He smelled of piss”. The smile disappeared from his face.

He looked up and said, “None of us had any money. But the Mellors. They were poor. Proper poor. His mum had died and his dad wasn’t very good… at being a dad. He wore the same clothes, the same shirt, the same worn-out shoes to school every day. No one wanted to sit next to him or stand with him in the dinner line. He really did smell.

“The Games teacher, Chicken Legs Johnson – he had bandy legs – always made Mellor wash properly in the shower. The rest of us would run through the jets of water just to get a bit wet before we’d get dressed. But Mellor had to wash properly with soap that Johnson gave him. But because his clothes were so smelly, it didn’t make much of a difference.

“We weren’t mean to him. We just never included him in anything. Never asked him to play football. Or come swimming. Or up the park. Nothing.

“I don’t even know what happened to him. He wasn’t very clever. I don’t remember him after the exams. I can’t remember him on the last day. He didn’t do the shirt signings. Or letting the teacher’s tyres down. He just sort of faded away.

“Then I did see him. Or I think I did. Maybe about ten years or so after that. I would have been twenty-five or six. I was in the newsagents, and was just leaving when he walked in. There was a half-smile. That ‘I know you’ sort of thing. But I didn’t smile back. I walked out. I’d been in a class with him for five years. And I didn’t stop. And I don’t know why.

“I could have given him a few minutes. But I didn’t. I wasn’t in any particular hurry. I just walked out. I didn’t even look back. But his face with that half smile on it stayed imprinted in my mind. I can still see it now.

“God. I wish I had stopped. Shook his hand and just asked what he was up to. But I didn’t.

“He’d had a shitty time at school. And it was Johnson who made the effort to make sure he had a good wash once a week who probably had done the most for him. And that’s why I give to Barnardo’s and Action for Children. Because I want to make sure that there’s at least one person like Johnson – who cares – in a child’s life. To let them know they are worth something. And are important. Because we never did. And I should have.”

David looked up. There was a tear in his eye.

“The money I give isn’t really enough. Not enough for what I didn’t do. Which was to be a friend when I had the chance. That’s why I give.”

David’s story illustrates why we spend so much time speaking to donors at Bluefrog. To understand what giving to charity actually means to a donor – particularly older people. When it comes to helping children’s charities, giving isn’t just a chance to help a child today. It can be a way to say sorry, or a thousand other things, to a child that you once knew.

Names have been changed along with a few elements of the story – for obvious reasons.