Having recently completed the ASIST course (suicide first aid) I am acutely aware of the high incidence of suicide here in the UK, as in other countries. I am also conscious of the impact that it can have on families and friends. Many of us personally know people who have been affected in this way.
So it was particularly timely to read today of a nine-year-old from Southend, Essex (UK) who – two years on from his father’s suicide – has only just managed to come to terms with the loss, and has now begun a fundraising bid in his memory.
Ben Gotts suffered from severe depression, and despite having a deep bond with his young son Mason, took his own life in 2011, shortly after being released from a mental health unit. Mason and his mother Lisa were devastated by the tragedy, and it is only very recently that the young lad has felt able to visit his father’s grave. On doing so, he was disappointed to see that it was marked simply by a small plastic sign, whereas all the surrounding graves had headstones. He made up his mind to rectify this, and is planning to raise £1000 for “a big black headstone” with the inscription “Thank you for being my daddy. I love you loads.”
So he will be undertaking a 12-mile beach fundraising walk this month, from Shoeburyness to Chalkwell (and back), on what would have been his father’s 41st birthday. A touching tribute, and one which definitely deserves support. To sponsor Mason, call Lisa (07453 323410) or email her at email@example.com. Any excess funds raised will be donated to Southend Mind.
And while we are on the subject of suicide… if you ever get the chance to take the ASIST course (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training), I would highly recommend it. One day you might come across someone contemplating suicide, and you could perhaps be instrumental in saving their life, if you have been suitably trained. Check out LivingWorks’ main (Canadian) website at www.livingworks.net for further details.
To all my readers: I wish you a very Merry Christmas (or whatever else you are celebrating today) – and may you have a Peaceful and Prosperous New Year in 2013.
Continuing yesterday’s role-reversal theme of young people inspiring adults…
The charity e:merge, which works with the young people of Bradford, and normally seeks to inspire them “to improve their lives”, recently put on its web-page a selection of 29 young people who the youth workers say have inspired them. What better message could we have for Christmas Day 2012 than this inspiring celebration of a representative selection of some of the wonderful young people who can be found around the UK today. Check it out HERE.
Thanks to e:merge, too, for today’s photo, which nicely emphasises the down-to-earth practicality of true charity (love) at this otherwise very romantic time of year.
Jaiden Mika with Faith (Photo credit: Stanley Times)
Last week I posted a blog about a teen, Kylie Hill, who has been working on behalf of homeless pets. Today I came across news of an even younger volunteer devoting his time and energies to this cause.
Nine-year-old Jaiden Mika began assisting at the Lake County Animal Control Center four months ago, taking dogs for walks and participating in pet adoption events. Earlier this month – with help from his teacher Mrs Plant – he organised a fundraiser, Paws for Pets, at his school, Jane Ball Elementary, in Cedar Lake, Indiana (USA). And at his birthday party he held a prize competition to encourage his friends to donate, too: the biggest donation was rewarded with a stuffed toy.
But Jaiden’s good works don’t end there – with his mother Violet’s agreement he even took in a couple of new-born puppies himself (Faith and Hope), to care for them until permanent homes could be found. Again, this echoes Kylie’s story. Unfortunately, Hope didn’t live long enough to be placed – which was very upsetting for all involved – but Faith was eventually adopted by a loving family, and Jaiden’s mother says that although he was sorry to lose his precious charge, he was delighted that the new owners were “wonderful people”, whom he believes will provide exactly what the young pup needs. Violet says that this was a great object lesson for him in unselfish love.
If, as Mahatma Gandhi once said, “One can measure the greatness and the moral progress of a nation by looking at how it treats its animals”, then young people such as these must reassure us that the future of our world is indeed in good hands.
A 15-year-old boy from Exning, Suffolk, UK has been sleeping out in a hammock for a year, to raise funds for a charity that saved his sister’s life.
Kelly-Anne Challinor, who is now 16 and has just completed her GCSEs, was out riding her horse in 2005, when she had a life-threatening accident – her horse fell on top of her, and cracked her skull. Volunteers from the medical emergency charity Magpas saved her life, by sedating her – preventing what could have been a fatal swelling around her brain.
Her younger brother Rob, an outdoor enthusiast, decided to thank the charity by raising funds through a sponsored hammock ‘sleep’ – sleeping in his back garden for a year. Braving severe winter weather, with temperatures going as low as -16C, and winds so strong that at times he feared for his life, he completed the 365-day fundraiser at the end of August, having collected £1,760, to be split between Magpas and the Child Brain Injury Trust (of which Kelly-Anne is a patron).
Magpas rewarded Rob’s efforts by arranging for him (and Kelly-Anne) to spend time with his hero, TV explorer Ray Mears, to teach him bushcraft skills. As a bonus, he also received a congratulatory letter from another TV explorer, Bear Grylls.
Rob & Kelly-Anne with Ray Mears (centre)
A 14-year-old Jack Russell Terrier – therapy dog to an 11-year-old boy with a breathing disorder, whose life she has saved countless times – now has her own bucket list, following her having been diagnosed with canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome, which is a condition similar to Alzheimer’s in humans.
Bingo was originally trained as a hearing dog by National Service Dogs, but received special follow-on training to allow her to respond to Cole Hein’s unusual condition, which frequently leaves him unable to breathe: Bingo barks whenever she detects the onset of the problem – thus ensuring that her young master receives immediate life-saving attention. Two years ago she was named Service Dog of the Year by the Purina Animal Hall of Fame, in recognition of her sterling work. But now she has been diagnosed with a terminal condition of her own that means she may have only a few weeks left to live.
So Cole is doing his best to make her final days as pleasant as possible – alongside the veterinary treatment that she is receiving. He has created a canine equivalent of a bucket list, which has been dubbed a ‘lick-it list’: this includes receiving dog treats from around the world. Treats should be sent to:
Cole Hein/Bingo Hein
PO Box 413
The Hein family has said that it doesn’t want financial donations, but that if people are unable to send dog treats and still want to do something in Bingo’s honour they should make a donation to their local animal shelter instead.
The complete lick-it list is as follows:
1. Dog treats from around the world.
2. An outing together, to Ruckers.
3. Walking twice around the block together.
4. A photo shoot together.
More information is available on the Facebook group that Cole and his family have set up about Bingo.