Foundation helps many in memory of a beloved son
Niki Connor and her younger son Louis. She set up the Finlay Foundation following the death of her son Finlay, below (tk719) By thomas kelsey
Every day is a struggle for mum Niki Connor, whose six-year-old son died as they walked to school in March 2011, but a charity set up in his memory is helping to give purpose to her life.
Mrs Connor, 39, of White Horse Way, Devizes, said: “Having the Finlay Foundation gives me a purpose and I love it when I go to give donations to places with money raised in his memory, as I feel he is right beside me and smiling.
“Even when he was very little he was always very generous and caring and I know he would be pleased that we are helping to make other children happy.”
The foundation, which raises money for toys, play equipment and high visibility jackets for hospitals, hospices and charity-funded groups, was set up by Finlay’s father Greg soon after Finlay died.
Finlay and his mother were hit by a bus within yards of Woodborough Primary School. The driver was later jailed for causing death by dangerous driving.
Mrs Connor’s younger son Louis is now a few months older than Finlay was when he died.
She said: “That seems very strange to me and so sad that Finlay is not here as he and Louis used to do everything together.
“Louis still tells people he has an older brother aged eight as he says Finn has his birthdays in heaven so he is still his big brother. We talk about Finn every day and Louis can remember him making him laugh if he was upset about something.”
These are hard months for Mrs Connor, who is now divorced from Finlay’s father, as she has to get through Christmas, Finlay’s birthday on January 19 and the anniversary of his death on March 14.
Finlay is never far from Louis’ thoughts. This Christmas, when other children at Rushall Primary put stars on a Christmas trees wishing for presents, Louis wrote: “I hope Finlay is happy and God is looking after him in heaven.”
On his birthday in August he was given a giant helium balloon but he insisted on releasing it into the sky so Finlay could enjoy it as well.
As well as raising money to help make the hospital stay of children happier, the foundation has also raised cash for both Wiltshire Air Ambulance and the Great Western Air Ambulance.
Finlay was airlifted to Swindon by the Wiltshire team while Mrs Connor was taken to Frenchay Hospital in Bristol by the Great Western helicopter.
She needed emergency surgery and was unconscious for several days in an induced coma but can never forget the moment she came round sufficiently to instinctively know something terrible had happened to her son.
When Mrs Connor came home the reality of the situation was difficult for her to deal with but the foundation gave her a purpose.
Its work has gradually grown and this year alone it has raised about £18,000, bolstered by other events undertaken by supporters.
Each year it holds two craft fairs and an ‘extreme experience’. A ball is held every two years. In 2013, Mrs Connor and 38 others undertook an abseil and this year she is considering a zip wire challenge.
In addition to cash for the air ambulances, money was given to Swift Medics and sensory toys were given to Frenchay Hospital. Craft toys have gone to Naomi House Hospice, Great Western Hospital, Swindon and the Royal United Hospital, Bath.
The charity also provides high visibility vests for children to wear when walking to school.
Mrs Connor said: “The foundation gives me something to think about and keeps Finn’s memory alive but I don’t want it just to be a charity called Finlay Foundation and for people not to realise it is all about such a special little boy.
“Next year we have people doing lots of events for us including an Ironman and other personal challenges.
“The Opportunity Centre in Devizes has had toys, many local schools, including Pewsey Scout group, have had high visibility jackets, and thousands has been raised for Wiltshire Air Ambulance in Finlay’s memory both from the foundation and friends and family.
“£10,000 was given to The Great Western air ambulance in Bristol. Salisbury Hospital has also had toys and art materials. Frenchay hospital brain unit introduced ‘sensory play day Tuesday’ after our donation of sensory toys.
“I want to thank everybody who has helped us by planning and supporting events, donating prizes and sponsoring us. The feeling of support is amazing and Finlay would be proud of you all.”
For more information, go to finlayfoundation.co.uk