Seanna's giant leap for sister: Big-hearted teen taking on skydive for charity
Teenager Seanna McBennett will banish any fears she might have as she jumps from a plane at 3,000 feet today by focusing her thoughts on her late and beloved sister, in whose memory she is taking on the fundraising skydive.
While Seanna was only six when her sister, Niamh, took her own life in 2005, she still has vivid memories of her and the way she always looked out for her.
"I miss her every day" said the 17-year-old, from Clonmore, outside Dungannon. "I have pictures of Niamh in my bedroom and she is always in my heart. I'll be thinking of her as I do the tandem dive to raise money for the charity that was set up by my parents in her name, the Niamh Louise Foundation."
Four other young people who support the foundation and have been affected by suicide will be making the leap with Seanna.
"There aren't many people of our age who don't know someone who has been affected by suicide," Seanna explained.
The foundation, launched by James and Catherine McBennett after Niamh's death, has made huge advances in the 10 years it had been in existence. But the statistics surrounding suicide are still alarming, particularly among young people.
Last year in Northern Ireland, the number of suicides increased from 268 to 318, and 132 of the people who took their own lives were under the age of 34.
The idea for the skydive came to Seanna as she sought out new ways to help raise the profile of the Niamh Louise Foundation, and one of her projects was a step back in time.
The teenager, who is studying for A-levels in English literature and media studies, said persuading her friends to do the skydive with her was not as difficult as she thought it would be.
The other four people taking part are Grainne Clancy and Shannon McGillian (both 18), Megan McAllister (17), and 27-year-old Damian Boyle.
Seanna said none of them would class themselves as daredevils. "But the more they found about the skydive, the more that they started to get excited," she explained.
"I just can't wait to get up there - but if I get scared I will think about Niamh," added the teenager, who hopes that the skydive will raise a considerable amount of much-needed money for the foundation, though that is not the only aim.
"We want to raise awareness of suicide and of the help that is on offer for people battling with mental issues," Seanna said.