A Shoreham couple are set to take on a 100km fundraising walk in just 24 hours in memory of their ‘wonderful boy’ Winston, who died suddenly at the age of three.
Rhiannon Fisher, 36, and Ric Preece, 34, decided to take part in the South Coast Challenge, in aid of the Chestnut Tree House children’s hospice, after the charity helped them cope with the ‘utter shock and devastation’ of Winston’s unexpected death in January last year.
Recalling the day before Winston died, Rhiannon said: “We had had a wonderful family day.
“He’d had his hair cut, we’d been to the toy museum in Brighton, eaten chips at a café and he’d enjoyed scooting over Shoreham Bridge.
“It was an active, normal day and, although Winston was a bit snuffly, we had no reason to believe we wouldn’t have many more days like that.”
But, tragically, Winston died that night, just weeks before his fourth birthday.
“We later learned that he had had bronchopneumonia caused by an infection in the lungs, but we didn’t know that at the time,” Rhiannon said.
“We were just faced with the utter shock and devastation of losing our wonderful boy.”
The parents were quickly put in touch with Chestnut Tree House, which offers bereavement support to any family in the county who loses a child, even if they are unknown to the charity previously.
Rhiannon said the charity had been ‘totally amazing’.
She added: “We couldn’t comprehend what was going on, we had no idea how to deal with it.
“It was such a relief to be taken into the sanctuary of the house and be surrounded with people who did know what to do.”
Keen to support the charity, the couple decided to take on the walking challenge.
Rhiannon said: “In the days after Winston died we just tried to get out of bed each day and go for a walk. Somewhere, anywhere.
“It became a survival mechanism.
“So when the South Coast Challenge came up it made sense for us to take part.”
Starting from Eastbourne on Saturday, August 26, the pair will walk 100km in 24 hours along the coastal path and South Downs Way to reach Arundel and hope to raise £2,000 for the hospice.
Rhiannon said: “We’ve not had a lot of time for training, what with a 13-month-old baby, a new business and part-time work.
“But we’re determined to finish the walk.”
Charity is an ‘absolute lifeline’
‘We have absolutely no idea how we would have survived without Chestnut Tree House, it’s been an absolute lifeline’ – parents Rhiannon Fisher and Ric Preece have expressed their gratitude for Chestnut Tree House, which helped them deal with all the things they said ‘we never imagined we would have to do’, following Winston’s death.
Rhiannon said: “Chestnut Tree’s chaplain, Steve, and one of the community nurses guided us, ever so gently, through those first few days and weeks.
“While we aren’t religious at all, it was Steve who helped us plan a funeral that was fitting for Winston.
“He loved trains and all kinds of transport – we’d lived in London for most of his life so we were always on and off trains and buses – and so Steve suggested a natural burial site near a train line to us and it was just perfect.”
Chestnut Tree House also provided a place for Winston to be at rest until his funeral.
“We were able to stay at the House with Winston,” says Rhiannon.
“We could bring his toys in and create a personal space in which to begin to process what had happened to our family.”
The couple have also benefitted from ongoing counselling, something they found especially beneficial after welcoming Winston’s baby brother Frank to the family just five months after Winston died – which Rhiannon said brought ‘a whole new set of emotions’.
She said: “We’ve been to bereavement events and sessions which have allowed us to meet other parents who have lost children, and we have a pebble for Winston in Chestnut Tree House’s remembrance garden.
“Obviously Frank will never meet his brother but Chestnut Tree House is giving us valuable, child-friendly space in which to remember Winston and talk to Frank about him.”
To sponsor Rhiannon and Ric, visit their fundraising page here
There are still spaces left on the South Coast Challenge. Find out how to take part here