MORE than 1,000 young people have been able to follow their dreams thanks to a charity established after the death of a Royal Marine from Ferndown.

The parents of John Thornton, who was 22 when he died in Afghanistan, have now given almost £500,000 away to youngsters living in East Dorset.

Pete and Linda Thornton have just £200 to go before reaching the milestone.

The couple launched the John Thornton Young Achievers Foundation in 2008.

It supports local young people in achieving their ambitions and potential in life and has given awards to over 1,300 individuals, as well as a number of groups, since it started.

It currently supports 19 groups in Dorset, including schools, Girl Guide and Scouts groups, and the Dorset and Wilts wing of the Air Cadets.

One of its recent awards was given to Air Cadet Junior Leaders who undertook a three-week expedition to Ghana. While there, they helped build a school.

Chairman Pete Thornton said award recipients were “very varied”.

He added reaching half-a-million was “amazing”.

“For a small charity, which has no paid staff and no offices, it is quite an achievement.

“Providing a young person can prove that they’re doing something they’ll benefit from, and they can cost it out reasonably, we’ll give them an award. There’s no means testing, and we don’t worry about their background - as long as they show courage, determination, unselfishness, and cheerfulness in adversity – the foundation’s key values.”

Trustees are all volunteers and the foundation has no paid staff and no premises. By keeping running costs to a minimum trustees ensure that the maximum amount of funds raised are directly invested in young people.

Awards have been given to the North East Forest and North East Minster Divisions of the Girl Guides, the East Dorset and Christchurch District Scouts, the Dorset Music Service, Ferndown Middle School, St Michael’s Middle School, Beaucroft Foundation School, the Dorset Fire and Rescue Service Cadets, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme, Dorset, Bournemouth and Poole, the Coda Fiddle Orchestra, Ferndown First School, Parley First School, Hampreston First School, Basement Studio and the Tall Ships Trust, in addition to the three core organisations, Ferndown Upper School, the Dorset and Wilts Wing of the Air Cadets and the Air Cadet Junior Leaders.