FAMILY of Rastrick teenager Shannen Harker are marking what would have been her 18th birthday by raising money for a charity close to their hearts.
Shannen was 15 when she was killed in a car accident at Birkby Lane, Bailiff Bridge, on August 6, 2008. Her father, Stephen Rushworth, who was driving the car, also died.
Every year her family and friends mark the anniversary with a fundraising event to not only remember the vibrant teenager but also to raise money for the Joseph Salmon Trust, which has provided the family with endless support.
Her mum, Kirsty Knowles, said birthdays and other landmarks heightened the pain family and friends were still feeling.
This year they wanted to do something extra special to mark the birthday.
“We didn’t know about The Joseph Salmon Trust when Shannen died until Richard, my husband, was given a number for the charity through work. We organised the funeral ourselves but we wanted a nice headstone, somewhere we could go to, but we knew we wouldn’t have the money.
“We were quoted around £3,000 for the headstone we wanted because we wanted it to be fitting for her. For a while we didn’t contact the Trust and tried to save up the cash ourselves.
“Eventually we rang them and they were so helpful. Eventually, with their support, we were able to get the full headstone that we wanted,” she said.
“When you are going through something like that it is really comforting to go to somewhere like the grave which is in Rastrick Cemetery. It did take me a while to find the right words to contact the Trust and let them go ahead with the arrangements because it is a lasting tribute so you want it to be right.”
Kirsty said the family didn’t have savings and had a lot of financial constraints which made it difficult to purchase the headstone as well as giving Shannen the funeral she deserved.
“That is why the Trust was set up by Neil and his wife Rachael, because they realised there was nothing available to help with funding. There is no support from the government and, in fact, headstones are even subject to tax, something which the Trust is campaigning to remove,” she said.
“With it being Shannen’s 18th on July 12 I wanted to highlight the charity and the good work it does. I want to encourage people that knew her and family to donate to the Trust so it can carry on all its good work.”
She said since Shannen’s death she has kept in contact with some of her close friends who have over the years become her friends.
“They visit the grave and find it a comfort like I do,” she said. “Shannen’s brother and sister, Isaac and Holly, also find it a huge comfort in going up there and cleaning it and when they get older it will be somewhere they can go.
“Without the help from the Trust we might still be waiting for a headstone. It has helped so many other families. I just see this as giving something back. I don’t think I will ever repay what it has done for us.”
The Joseph Salmon Trust was set up by the Huddersfield couple whose three-year-old son Joseph died from pneumonia in 2005.
They set up the charity because they felt that families needed far more support at a time of loss. The charity helps families who have lost children pay for the funeral and other related costs.
Since the charity was registered in 2008, it has helped 30 families and covers Huddersfield, Mirfield and Calderdale areas.
“We look at every case and there are no restrictions to what can be applied for,” said Neil. “We are the only charity of its kind in the UK and we get contacted every week by people all over the country. Unfortunately we are only able to help the people who live in the three areas but there is a great need for what we do.
“We are extremely grateful to Kirsty and her family for their support and help.
“A lot of the money we raise actually does come from people we have helped and people who have lost children and want to go on and help other families.
“By doing this lovely thing on what was a very difficult and emotional day it will make a real difference to other families and we cannot thank them enough.”
To donate visit www.justgiving.com/Shannen-Harker or text the amount followed by CDHM85 to 70070