A triathlon competitor who represented Great Britain in his age group at the World Championships is among a team of athletes who have raised money in memory of a courageous teenager.
Wrexham Triathlon Club has raised £1,000 in aid of Nicola’s Fund, a charity inspired by talented schoolgirl Nicola Riley that enables families coping with childhood cancer to enjoy a well-deserved, paid-for holiday.
Nicola, who lost her battle against a brain tumour 11 years ago, was treated to a special family holiday in Florida the year before she died and was concerned her friends in hospital would not have the same opportunity, especially those who were too poorly to travel such a distance.
She talked about setting up a charity that would enable youngsters undergoing gruelling hospital treatment to have a well-earned rest with their families and Nicola’s Fund was born in the teenager’s honour.
Great Britain triathlon competitor Ian laing, who recently returned from Mexico where he competed in the World Triathlon Championships in the 60-64 age group, was among the club members who designated Nicola’s Fund as one of its chosen charities for 2016.
“My wife and I both work in the medical professional and we see lots of children and families who need help,” said Ian, 60, a paramedic based in Wrexham.
“My wife Elaine is a matron at the Maelor Hospital in Wrexham and so it’s a charity that means something to both of us.
“When we met Nicola’s parents, Steve and Debbie, it had a big emotional impact on us. Children are always an emotive subject but we realised how worthwhile the cause was.
“Nicola was a very brave and determined young girl. Talking to her parents about the charity, it is clear what a great job they’re doing in keeping her memory alive and making life easier for other families going through childhood illness.”
Ian, who has represented Great Britain twice in his career; once at the European Championships in 2013 and more recently at the World Championships in Mexico, said the club took its fundraising responsibilities very seriously and had raised more than £45,000 for local and national causes since forming in 1995.
The club, which has an impressive competition record and counts former World and European Champion triathlon athlete Pete Norman as a member, has previously raised £20,000 for national charity Aspire supporting sports and spinal injuries.
“This is the first time we’ve supported Nicola’s Fund but will definitely be raising money for the cause again,” said Ian.
Natural performer Nicola, a pupil of the prestigious Chester Hammond School, was just five days from her 15th birthday when she passed away on April 20, 2005 following a courageous fight against a brain tumour.
Poignantly, the teenager left a list for her mum to find in her pyjama bag with details of the presents to be ordered for her cousins that Christmas along with the money needed to buy them all. She had carried this out knowing as well that her Mum was not the biggest fan of a big festive shop and it would help her out after she was gone.
Nicola’s dad Steve, who works with Wrexham-based Hadlow Edwards Wealth Management Ltd, which is also a big supporter of the charity, said he was deeply honoured by the contribution made by Wrexham Triathlon Club which collected donations from members over a few months.
Steve said: “It was a chance conversation with one of my Hadlow Edwards colleagues, Ben Gittins, which led the club to find out about us and start their fundraising for us.
“Obviously as a charity we are very thankful for the support and fundraising that the club has done for us. Every penny goes to the families and we are very proud of that. We don’t have any paid staff as it’s all run by volunteers,” he said.
“I would like to say a big thank you to Ian and the club for nominating Nicola’s Fund as a chosen charity.
“We try to improve the quality of life for children with cancer but we also help their families. In the past, we used to send all our families to Center Parcs with spending money so they can gain a sense of normality again with no daily trudges to the hospital and are able to give the brothers and sisters a little bit of attention.
“We now send families to our caravans in North Wales which is an ideal spot. The money the club has raised will pay for a couple of families to go on holiday.”
Thanks to generous donations, the charity has recently been able to purchase a second caravan at the same holiday park in Porthmadog to increase the opportunities for families to enjoy some much-needed fun and laughter.
Steve, 57, from Llay, said Nicola’s selflessness and kind heart had inspired them to launch the charity on her behalf. Ten years on, the charity has raised in excess of £550,000 and helped more than 525 families.
“Nicola would be absolutely staggered that her charity has been going for 10 years and has helped so many families. I’m sure she’s upstairs with a big smile on her face feeling very humbled,” said the business owner, who runs a management development company alongside wife Debbie, 53.
“She was always one for the kids, even though she was one herself. The charity was all her idea.
“We have a group of trustees and patrons. They are all volunteers and roll their sleeves up and get stuck in. All of them knew Nicola in some capacity and their own children grew up with her. It’s really a close-knit, family charity.”
For more information about Nicola’s Fund go to www.nicolasfund.co.uk
For more information about Wrexham Triathlon Club, please go to www.wrecsamtri.org.uk