Friends make a big splash for Kate

Janette Lever-Smith and Steve Sutcliffe
Janette Lever-Smith and Steve Sutcliffe

THIRTY years after Kate Lever’s death from meningitis at the age of 12, her family and friends are keeping her memory alive and raising funds to fight the devastating disease.

They are determined to raise as much money as possible for the Meningitis Trust this year, the 30th anniversary of the Bailiff Bridge schoolgirl’s death.

One friend, Stephen Sutcliffe of Lightcliffe, is about to embark on a gruelling series of open water swimming challenges this summer. The first, on May 26, will be a one mile swim on the Thames in London, followed by two miles on Alton Water and two miles on Lake Windermere, a mile at Salford Quays and two miles on Strathclyde Water.

Stephen, who was a contemporary of Kate’s at Bailiff Bridge Junior and Infants School, said: “I have been training hard. I am swimming a mile a day in the week and two miles every Saturday and Sunday but it’s very different swimming in open water to the warm and calm surroundings of a pool. The first thing that hits you is the cold. The first 10 minutes are tough but once you get used to it, it’s not too bad.

“I remember Kate as a lovely, friendly person, very pretty with a lovely personality. She was sporty and loved rounders and swimming. It was just a huge shock when she died,” he said.

Stephen and Kate’s sister Janette Lever-Smith are joint organisers of a reunion for former pupils at Bailiff Bridge School from the 1975-1985 era with the proceeds from the sale of tickets going to the Meningitis Trust. The reunion disco will be held on September 29 at Bailiff Bridge Community Centre.

Janette said: “It will be a 1980s disco with a raffle and we hope that it will be a great opportunity for all of us to get together, probably for the first time since we left school. People still have fond memories of Kate and this will be a fitting way to remember her - and raise some money for the fight against meningitis.”

As a family, the Levers have done a lot of fundraising over the years with mum Doreen, dad Trevor and Janette taking part in the Great North Run in 2009. Janette has tackled numerous 10k runs and will be taking part in the Great North Run again in September. She said: “Over the years we must have raised almost £15,000. Even though much more is known about meningitis these days, it’s so important that people realise how quickly it can strike.”

Mrs Doreen Lever said: “If the money we raise helps to prevent just one more death from meningitis, it will be a fitting legacy for Kate. The shock of having a healthy child going off to school one day and not having her with us the next day is impossible to describe.”

l Janette and Stephen are now trying to contact old friends and collect photographs for the reunion. Avocet Dye and Chemical Co Ltd have set the ball rolling by giving £100 for the ‘Lucky ticket’ prize draw and it is hoped other businesses will come forward and give raffle prizes. For tickets for the reunion priced at £10 each, to submit photographs or to donate raffle prizes email: janette@avocet-dyes.co.uk