Belfast Telegraph

Death of choking victim Sherry Campbell 'wasn't in vain' - over £3k is raised in her name

By Victoria Leonard

The mother of tragic Groomsport choking victim Sherry Campbell said her daughter's death "was not in vain" after a charitable foundation set up in her name raised thousands of pounds in just a fortnight.

Since the Strangford special needs teaching assistant died, the Sherry Campbell Foundation has raised over £3,500 and has ordered potentially life-saving state-of-the-art equipment including anti-choking teaching vests and a "throat plunger".

Sherry's grieving mum Fionuala told the Belfast Telegraph that the foundation's work "means the world" to her and her husband, Shannon, who discovered his only child lying dead in the family kitchen in the early hours of September 7.

Last week, St Comgall's Church in Bangor was filled to capacity as family, friends, colleagues and pupils gathered to celebrate the life of the young woman, who would have turned 30 next month.

Shortly after her death, the Sherry Campbell Foundation was founded to promote awareness of choking and to fund a special needs teaching assistant at Strangford College.

In addition to the fundraising drive, the organisation's website has also gone live.

Fionuala, who said she is "still in shock" at Sherry's passing, described the foundation as a "legacy" for her "sweet girl".

"The support we have received has been incredible, and it shows how highly thought of Sherry was - it was a privilege to have a sweet child like her," she told the Belfast Telegraph.

"The foundation means the world to me, it means that her death is not a passing ship in the night - there is something out there which will keep her memory alive and could mean that this doesn't happen to anyone else.

"It means her death wasn't in vain, it's her legacy.

"I would like to see the teaching equipment and the throat plunger taken to every school, and any money left over will go to the special needs department at Strangford College.

"If you think about it, many people aren't sure what to do in a choking situation - teenagers coming in are always hungry, and in a split second it could all go wrong."

Fionuala extended her thanks to all those who have supported the family, and the foundation, in the wake of Sherry's death.

"The community have been wonderful, and Strangford College have embraced me," she continued.

"The support they have given me has been amazing, and they will be holding a memorial service for Sherry in October, which will be a celebration of her life."

Sherry's lifelong friend and neighbour Danielle Elmes, whose sons Finlay and Callum designed the foundation's website, added: "It's amazing that people have been so kind and generous, we can't believe that we have raised so much in just two weeks, and it has already allowed us to start buying life-saving equipment.

"It has enabled us to order a state-of-the art plunger from America. You put it on someone's mouth and it sucks the air out in one direction, removing the obstruction.

"We have also ordered two training vests, which allow people to practise abdominal thrusts in pairs without the person wearing the vest getting hurt.

"We have been in talks with two fully-qualified first aiders who came forward and volunteered their services, and we are aiming to start teaching in schools soon after the equipment arrives, hopefully within the next month."

Danielle said that the foundation's work is helping to create a positive focus and legacy, despite the devastating loss of a young life full of promise.

"I would like to see this equipment in every school and public place in Northern Ireland, and for all school pupils to be taught how to do abdominal thrust manoeuvres," she continued.

"You see other life-saving equipment in public buildings, like fire extinguishers, yet death by choking is much more common than death in a building fire.

"If we could even save one life that would be a comfort.

"I think Sherry would be backing our efforts."

For more information or to donate, visit the Sherry Campbell Foundation online at www.thesherrycampbellfoundation.org

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