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Supporting bereaved families

349. Rhian Burke

Rhian Burke is a remarkable woman who found willpower from her personal tragedy to raise over £700,000 to support bereaved families across Wales.

Just a week after Rhian’s youngest son turned one in February 2012, tragedy struck when George was suddenly taken ill.  He was rushed to hospital and despite the efforts of doctors, he died soon after arriving. Everyone in the family was grieving the loss of this precious little boy and Rhian felt she had nowhere to turn. Just five days later and unable to come to terms with his son’s death, Rhian also lost her husband Paul.

Determined that no other parent should have to suffer the same ordeal and find themselves unable to cope, Rhian set up ‘2 Wish Upon a Star’. The charity raises money to support bereaved families and ensures that no other parent has to face grief alone. Since then Rhian has been tirelessly raising money to allow hospitals across South Wales to offer an enhanced bereavement service. To date, Rhian has raised over £700,000 and enlisted the help of thousands of supporters and fundraisers. In February 2014, Rhian handed over a new bereavement suite to the University Hospital of Wales and is now in talks with several hospitals across Wales to improve their suites.

The charity works with hospitals across Wales to provide supplies such as bereavement boxes available for parents, which contain materials such as a disposable camera; hand and footprint sets; and bags for locks of hair so parents can make a pack to remember their child. Her charity also runs counselling sessions and groups so bereaved families can find support in each other.

The community, both far and wide, has really rallied behind the cause. All of the funds have been raised by the charity and its supporters. They hold annual events to raise money and awareness including a ball and a bike ride that took £67,500 in 2015 alone. Rhian now has ambitious plans to develop these services in hospitals across Wales.

Prime Minister David Cameron said:

“Rhian has shown incredible strength in her work to support bereaved families. Losing a child is a devastating experience, but Rhian has dedicated so much time and thought to caring for other families, so they don’t have to face their grief alone. She is thoroughly deserving of this Points of Light award.”

Rhian said:

“It was a complete surprise to win the award and I am just so grateful to everyone for their support. Setting up this charity and supporting other bereaved parents felt like a very natural thing for me to do after losing my two boys. It means George and Paul can now live on in the work we do. When it happened to me I just wanted to know that what I was feeling was normal and I think that’s what the families we help want too – just to know they are not alone.”  

The daily Points of Light award recognises outstanding individual volunteers - people who are making a change in their community.

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