Belfast Telegraph

Walk in memory of tragic asthma schoolgirl Rachel Williamson

By Rachel Martin

The parents of a schoolgirl who passed away after an asthma attack have set a date for a 16k event in her memory.

Rachel Williamson, a fifth year student from Portavogie in Co Down, passed away on July 5, having been diagnosed with the condition at the age of six.

The 16-year-old had been described as a popular and well-loved teenager who made friends right across the generations.

The walk on September 23 will cover a kilometre for each year of Rachel's life.

The schoolgirl was described by classmates as someone who would "always look out for you".

Her parents said they hope to spare other families the heartache of losing someone to asthma. They want to remember Rachel by raising money and awareness to fight the condition which took her life.

Rachel's father, Simon Williamson, is campaigning for better ambulance coverage and community training for such emergencies.

The nearest hospital to Portavogie, on the Ards Peninsula, is the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald - more than 20 miles away and a 40-minute journey along poor country roads. Other areas of the Ards Peninsula are even more remote.

Mr Williamson wants to include first aid training focusing on asthma response as part of the 16k event.

Rachel had just finished her GCSE exams and would have been due to start a college course in childcare this September.

Her father said: "Everyone has heard of asthma, but what most people are unaware of is that it can kill.

"Three people die every day of asthma-related illnesses in the UK.

"Our aim is to give back through Rachel; we want her to be the leading light in this.

"We came up with the idea initially for a sponsored walk - the 16k to represent the 16 years of her life - and then we wanted to turn it into an event day and to have professionals teach CPR and first aid."

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