GRIEVING parents have issued a heartfelt thankyou message to the Cheadle community on the first anniversary of their son's tragic death.
Joe Leyland collapsed and died aged just 16 following a cardiac arrest just days after collecting his GCSE results last year.
More than £16,000 has since been raised in memory of Joe thanks to a series of fund-raising events which culminated in a special cycle challenge in the town on Saturday.
Parents Ian and Maria have used some of the money to buy life-saving defibrillator equipment which was presented to Cheadle Cricket Club this week.
And they have since spoken of their ‘overwhelming’ gratitude to people in the town.
“The Cheadle community has shown us fantastic support since Joe passed away and we are incredibly grateful,” said Maria.
“We’ve been raising money for Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) as that’s the charity that has supported us so well.
“We’ve put on a string of events during the year, but it’s very much thanks to the generosity of the local community that we’ve been able to raise so much money.
“The cycle challenge on Saturday took the grand total so far up to £16,300 and none of that would have been possible without the continued support of people in this town – something we will always be very thankful for.
“No matter how many times we do these events people just keep supporting us. It means so much.”
Ian was joined by Joe’s sister Charlotte, uncle David and cousin Philip in a static cycle relay at Morrisons supermarket.
The trio took turns to cycle a distance of 135 miles – the equivalent of riding from Cheadle to the CRY headquarters in Surrey.
It was the latest in a string of events including non-uniform days at local primary schools, quiz or race nights at the cricket club, coffee mornings, a bingo night and various awareness stalls.
Maria added: “We initially aimed to raise £8,500 to put on a screening day to screen 100 young hearts.
“We achieved that early this year and the first screening event is booked for June next year at Painsley Catholic College in Cheadle.
“Anyone wishing to be screened can book free at www.testmyheart.org.uk.
“We have also funded a defibrillator for Cheadle Cricket Club which we presented this week.”
Maria said while the fund-raising effort helps to keep the family motivated, it will never take away her pain.
“Prior to Joe’s death, we were a very close-knit family and this hasn’t changed. In fact, it’s brought us even closer together,” she said.
“When Joe first died, our world fell apart and we didn’t know how we were going to carry on, but somehow we found the strength to go on day-by-day.
“We struggled to accept that we would have to go years missing out on all the things he would have achieved, but we have 16 years of memories to relive and his memory will live on through us forever.”
Maria said life changed forever on a day she will never forget.
“On August 29 2016, we were enjoying a Bank Holiday day out but everything changed so quickly that evening when Joe passed away suddenly, leaving us truly devastated.
“We did not know which way to turn or who to contact for support as it was all a whirlwind – a time of devastation and confusion for us all.
“Our fund-raising efforts for Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) started a few months after Joe’s death, when we had been put in contact with them.
“CRY is a fantastic charity, they gave us bereavement support, information of conditions that cause Young Sudden Cardiac Death (YSCD) and guided us in the right direction with regards to fundraising for them.
“CRY also conduct vast amounts of research into YSCD, which would not be possible without people fund-raising for them.
“The charity also provides heart screening for people aged between 14 and 35 and that’s something we wanted to do in our local area – to help find any potential conditions and prevent other families going through the heartbreak we have.”
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