Family of Northern Ireland teacher Sherry Campbell who choked to death launches charity to highlight dangers
The family of tragic Co Down choking victim Sherry Campbell is to create a charitable foundation in the late special needs teaching assistant's name.
The foundation will raise awareness of how to survive choking when alone, as well as fundraising for a special needs teaching assistant at Strangford College where 29-year-old Groomsport woman Sherry worked before her death.
The funeral of Sherry - an only child who was found dead by her father Shannon after choking to death in the family's kitchen a month before her 30th birthday - will take place tomorrow at St Comgall's Church on Bangor's Brunswick Road.
Shannon discovered Sherry's body at around 4am last Thursday morning after finding the lights on in their family home. He initially thought that Sherry had fallen asleep on the sofa while watching TV, before being confronted by the tragic scene.
Sherry's lifelong friend and neighbour Danielle Elmes (right), who is helping to organise her funeral, said the creation of a foundation in Sherry's name would provide a valuable legacy for causes close to her heart.
"Sherry was genuinely one of the sweetest people you could meet," Danielle told the Belfast Telegraph. "She adored working with special needs children at Strangford College, where she herself had been a pupil.
"Currently special needs teaching assistants are funded by the Education Authority, but with government cutbacks we are hoping to raise funds to support special needs teaching at the school. It's very early days, but it's something we feel she would like. We also want to raise awareness of how to survive choking - it's the fourth highest cause of death or injury in the UK, but many people have never thought about how they would cope if it happened to them.
"It breaks my heart to think that Sherry died alone, without a voice - she couldn't even cry out for help. You see campaigns when someone dies, and children and elderly people are most at risk from choking, but Sherry shows that it can happen to perfectly healthy adults too.
"We hope to launch a campaign to take around schools, universities and social media."
Danielle said that Sherry's close-knit family have been left "utterly devastated", and that the foundation will give her grieving parents, Shannon and Fionuala, a "focus and a way forward" in the difficult times ahead.
"They feel that their whole future has been taken away from them," she said. "She was an only child who worked alongside her mum, lived at home and went on holidays with her parents."
Danielle said she offered to organise Sherry's funeral as "no parent should have to pick their own child's coffin".
"The service will include a guard of honour, with six pupils from Strangford College on each side of the door as Sherry leaves the church, and teachers who taught her as a girl will be singing," she said.
"Sherry was a really girly girl, so afterwards there will be tea in her favourite restaurant which will be full of flowers - everything will be bright."
To donate to Sherry's cause, visit: justgiving.com/crowdfunding/ danielle-elmes