Georgia Williams Trust is a godsend to teenager's family
As the first anniversary of Shropshire murder victim Georgia Williams approaches, reporter Jennifer Meierhans talks to her family and looks at the success of the trust set up in the teenager's memory.
The family of murdered Shropshire teenager Georgia Williams say the "overwhelming" public response to a charity keeping her spirit alive has restored their faith in humanity.
As the first anniversary of the 17-year-old's death approaches, the Shropshire Star has launched a text appeal to make donations to the Georgia Williams Trust even easier.
And her parents Steve and Lynnette and sister Scarlett are grateful for any support for the charity.
Scarlett, 23, is a trustee and wants to play a key role in delivering grants which will help 11 to 18-year-olds to realise their dreams while giving back to their communities.
Headed up by chairman Richard Langton, the trust has raised more than £50,000 in its first year to provide grants of up to £250 to young people living or studying in Telford and Wrekin.
HOW TO GIVE TO THE GEORGIA WILLIAMS APPEAL:
It's easy to give:
- By text: Text FERR31 followed by the amount you want to give to 70070 - for example, to give £5, text FERR31£5
- By post: Send a cheque payable to The Georgia Williams Trust to Georgia Appeal, Newsdesk, Shropshire Star, Ketley, Telford TF1 5HU
- From your bank account: Log on to thegeorgiawilliamstrust.org for details
Mr Williams said: "It's coming up to the anniversary of the tragic event and we want Georgia's memory and her spirit to live on more than ever.
"It's a tremendous boost to our morale to see people responding in really positive ways towards something that would have been very, very close to Georgia's heart."
He added: "When something as terrible as this happens to you, you almost lose faith in humanity but the trust restores it.
He added: "I can't describe the effect that losing a child – and especially in this manner – has on the family that remains. April Jones's parents will know.
"I've always been a strong personality, healthy and fit and took things in my stride but this really, really knocked me flying.
"I'm not ashamed to say that, but at the end of the day I'm her dad and I really, really miss her deeply.
"People use the word 'devastated' but it isn't enough. It destroys your life. It will never, ever be the same.
"We just function and exist now. Life used to be about family, contentment and a little bit of happiness.
"Take those things away and you're just left with an existence.
"It's up to people to imagine what that is like for us. I am totally broken-hearted.
"But seeing the happiness that Georgia's legacy is bringing to other young people does give us some solace.
"It keeps Georgia in everyone's memory and it does lift us from the misery I've just described even just for a short time.
"And believe me, to be lifted from that even just for a few precious moments is a godsend.
"When you've got an organisation like the trust and you hear Georgia's name coming up and people doing things because they believe in the same things that our Georgia did, it's a tremendous source of support and hope.
"We are still recovering and we will recover for ever more but the trust is the one thing that doesn't make me break down in tears when I hear people mention Georgia's name.
"It's the one thing that gives us hope. It's got us out of the house which was becoming like a prison cell.
"Some things we haven't had the strength to go to, but as time goes by we will be putting more and more effort into doing things.
"It's a long slow process and there are no words to convey it. I've discovered what the real meaning of being heartbroken is."
Many have been inspired to take on "mad cap" fundraising challenges in tribute to the try-anything tomboy and Mrs Williams says it's these kind gestures that put a smile back on their faces.
"It gets us out doing things, meeting people and getting involved with things we never would have done before," said Mrs Williams.
"But that was Georgia – she would give everything a go and she would be friends with everyone. So even though she's not here Georgia is getting us to join in with things.
"She would be laughing at me for the things I've been getting up to, like my training for the Great Georgia Park Run but she would also be very proud.
"It is lovely to see all the people who have been helped by the trust too. The girls from New College who went to Morocco gave us a beautiful photo frame with pictures of them working to build an irrigation channel and helping children.
"It's something that will stay with them forever and help them develop as people."
Mrs Williams added: "Georgia would have loved all the fun, madcap ideas and dressing up. I smile and think yeah she would've been up for that.
"The ethos of the trust is just brilliant because it just captures what Georgia was all about and Scarlett thinks that's really great.
"She wants to drive it more if she can to get more people involved. And she really thinks it's funny all the strange things people are doing to raise money for the trust and it's all her sister's fault. She saw the photo of the mother and daughter who dressed up as chickens for Georgia's wishlist and it made her smile.
"It's given a lift to the community because people look out for these events now and all the fun and crazy things people do have become a talking point in the town."
Mr Williams added: "When you owe somebody as much as we owe the people who work for the trust, like the chairman Richard Langton and everybody else who takes part, there aren't any words to thank them, it means that much to us."
Fundraising in Georgia's memory began as soon as her family and friends were told of her tragic death at the end of May last year.
A memorial bench has been placed in the Bowring Park, close to her home in Wellington, and thousands of turquoise and orange wristbands bearing the trust motto Free Your Spirit – Join In have been sold to raise money for the trust.
While sitting in Georgia's room Mr Williams chanced upon a wishlist Georgia had written of Things to do Before I Die, and now trust supporters have embarked on a challenge to complete as many of the them in her memory as possible.
Deb Barre and her seven-year-old daughter Emily donned chicken costumes – number 18 on Georgia's list was to dress like a chicken for a day – and the pair from Donnington raised more than £100 for the trust.
And a West Mercia Police colleague of Mr Williams, Constable Nikki Burkitt, raised more than £1,400 for the trust by shaving her hair off – number nine on the list.
Mr Williams did the honours with the razor as Ms Burkitt said goodbye to her brunette locks at the Royal Victoria Hotel in Newport.
Amongst the other wishes on Georgia's list were to kiss someone famous, go to the top of the Eiffel Tower, get a tattoo and do a bungee jump.
But the list also demonstrated the teenager's desire to be a positive force in the world, including ambitions such as to give blood, volunteer at an animal sanctuary in a different country and tell someone how you really feel.
Her friends and trust supporters have pledged to carry out as many of the wishes as possible in Georgia's name but they might have trouble fulfilling number 16 – win the lottery.
The trust's official first birthday event will see more than 100 supporters tackle the 5km Telford Parkrun in Telford Town Park to boost the coffers further.
Runners of all levels of ability have pledged to take part in the weekly timed run to raise sponsorship for the trust, and the Parkrun on that day has been renamed the Great Georgia Parkrun.
Georgia was a sporty girl who loved the outdoors and adventurous activities, and she was always keen to volunteer for projects which would help others.
She had been the head girl at Ercall Wood Technology College and was a member of the student council at New College Telford, as well as being part of the matchday safety team at AFC Telford United and a Cadet Corporal with 1130 Squadron, Air Cadets.
The trust raises money to give other young people the chance to take part in the sort of activities Georgia benefitted from and to contribute to their local community.
The trust, which is run by a board of trustees from the organisations with which Georgia was most closely connected, has already started making grants to help local young people achieve a dream.
An additional aim of the trust is to campaign on issues of safeguarding awareness for young people, with an emphasis on staying safe while using social media.
- For more information about the trust people can visit the groups website at thegeorgiawilliamstrust.org
- See also: #forgeorgia - Shropshire Star's Georgia Williams appeal is launched
A year ago Georgia Williams, a Shropshire teenager whose name has become well known for all the wrong reasons, was alive, a jewel for her loving family, a shining spirit, a girl of fun and joy, a great friend to those lucky enough to have known her best.
The rest of the world now knows what sort of girl she was. Sick killer Jamie Reynolds put out that shining light, but there are many determined to hold up beacons to her memory and ensure that her spirit and glow endures, defying the evil that he did.
As the first anniversary of the 17-year-old's death gets closer, we at the Shropshire Star have launched a text appeal to make donations to the Georgia Williams Trust even easier.
In under a year, the trust has raised more than £50,000 to provide grants of up to £250 to young people living or studying in Telford and Wrekin area.
Many people have helped raise money for the trust. The pictures of Georgia show her smiling. With AFC Telford going up, she would have been smiling some more today.
Nothing can change what happened almost a year ago. But Georgia, her family, and friends, are ensuring good comes from it.
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