Craig begs more donations for Downs Syndrome friend

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The Independent Online

Big Brother winner Craig Phillips begged for more donations today after he pledged his £70,000 prize from the TV show to a Downs Syndrome teenager who needs a life-saving heart and lung transplant.

Big Brother winner Craig Phillips begged for more donations today after he pledged his £70,000 prize from the TV show to a Downs Syndrome teenager who needs a life-saving heart and lung transplant.

The generous Scouser will give the cash to family friend Joanne Harris after being voted by millions of people as winner of the Channel 4 contest.

The 28-year-old said he would do any charitable work he could to raise the quarter of a million pounds needed for Joanne to go to America for the vital operation.

"We are very close to raising the money but not as close as we would like," he said.

"There is still a lot of money that we need to obtain through various ways, through charitable work which I hopefully will get the pleasure of doing myself.

"I'm hoping it will be just another few months before we get her to America for the operation she unfortunately can't get in this country," he added.

The Liverpudlian, who now lives in Shropshire, said he was relaunching the appeal to raise the cash Joanne needs.

"If I'm in any position to relaunch anything for Joanne I will do it," he said. "I will try anything in my powers to do that but I need support from the press and the public in Britain.

"I think we have £100,000 or so with the money from myself and me and my family are willing to do what we can in charity events. I'm open to all offers."

Craig said Joanne, 18, from Shrewsbury, is "a unique young lady" who had been a family friend for many years.

"I have been very close to Joanne and all her family and I have done various other charity work in the past but I have not had the help from the public," he said.

Joanne was waiting outside the Big Brother house to greet Craig when he emerged as the winner last night.

"It was wonderful to see her and to be in a position to give her the money that I won," he said.

"I didn't expect to see her when I left the house last night. I did ask Big Brother a day or two ago that if she was well enough to come I would like to see her. In my hopes and my dreams she was going to be there and she was so it was brilliant," he added.

Craig was voted the winner of the Channel 4 show by 3,539,683 people as 7.7 million viewers jammed the phone lines to vote for their favourite contestant.

He beat fellow finalists lesbian former trainee nun Anna Nolan, 29, and father-of-three Darren Ramsey, 23.

The show proved a ratings hit for Channel 4 with a peak of 8.2 million people tuning in for the 8.30-9.30pm show and a peak of 10 million people for the 10.30-11.30pm show, bagging them 56.5% of the audience share.

Also at today's press conference Anna said she had spent last night in a hotel with girlfriend Tanya where they spent time catching up. "We went back to the hotel and chatted for quite a while and that's all we did, honestly.

"I'm going to sleep for a week and then after that I'm not very sure. People have been suggesting different career paths I could take and I have to decide which ones I fancy.

"Before I went into the house I worked at a skateboard shop and I know my job is there for when I come back but I don't have plans of what I'm going to do. I'm going to take a couple of weeks off, but I will go back there."

Anna said that her training as a nun helped her during the sometimes difficult situation in the house.

She said: "I was used to spending a lot of time by myself and had a lot of time to reflect and think. In the Big Brother house, I had so much time to think.

"Tanya knew it would be difficult but she supported me in what I wanted to do, which I'm very grateful for, but she knew it would be strange for both of us.

"It was difficult. Not only not talking to her but for all of us not talking to anyone else, your friends or family just each other. It was very hard," she added.

Darren, who was the first finalist to leave the Big Brother house last night, said he was looking forward to spending time with his three children.

He said: "I'm looking forward to going back to Catford. I want to resume reality and spend time with my friends and family.

"I didn't realise the scale of what this would be. I have only just realised that. I'm taking a step back to resume reality and spend some time with my kids.

"I need to get myself some peace of mind."

But he said he would not be returning to his job at Greenwich's Millennium Dome.

"Since coming out I've heard some bad press about the Dome so no, I won't be going back," he said.

Liz Warner, the Channel 4 commissioning editor who oversaw the programme, said: "The response to Big Brother has just got more and more extraordinary week by week.

"We set out to produce compelling entertainment and have ended up creating a cultural phenomenon that has changed the relationship between television and the web."