Huge show of support for Elgin parents' charity fundraiser after tragic suicide of teenage son Philip Polese
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SCORES of people gathered at the weekend in a show of support for the parents of an Elgin teenager who tragically took his own life last year after experiencing bouts of bullying.
Former St Sylvester’s Primary School and Elgin High School pupil Philip Polese ended his life, aged 13, in November last year. The tragedy sent shockwaves throughout Moray and beyond.
Last month his parents, Kay and Eddie Polese, of McMillan Avenue, organised a challenge to raise £2000 for charities which have helped them cope with the loss of their treasured only son.
They asked people to join a community challenge to walk, run or cycle a collective 2000km – the distance between Elgin and the Italian city of Pordenone. Philip was very proud of his part-Italian roots and loved to visit his family there.
As part of their fundraising efforts a fun day was held on Saturday, September 18, at The Warehouse@ Elgin Youth Café, where Philip was a much-loved regular. This was followed by an 8km circular walk in Elgin to share memories of some of the places that were special to the teenager.
Supporters have smashed all targets, covering 2806km so far, with their total expected to be well above £5000.
The funds will be shared between Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance, Finlay’s Friends Charity and Archie’s Child Bereavement Service Grampian.
The parents said: "Philip is never coming back and nothing is ever going to change that.
"But the response to our fundraising is of great comfort to us and goes to show just how well he was thought of and loved by so many."
Supporters included Eddie's colleagues at RAF Lossiemouth and police officer Gary Campbell, who was first on the scene in the wake of the tragedy.
Gary, who raised hundreds of pounds for the effort through setting himself a 100km target, said: "I’ve been a police officer for over 18 years and witnessed many difficult things – but this has affected me more than anything. I just wanted to do whatever I could to help."
Kay said: "We wanted to include a fun element at the Youth Café as Philip enjoyed many happy times there – and his friends certainly made that happen."
The mum added to her own steps total when she joined 105 pupils and their teachers at St Sylvester’s for a 1km walk around the school playing field. They notched up 116km and raised £136.
Meanwhile, Elgin High sixth-year pupils are taking on an 8000-step September Challenge to boost the total and Philip’s friend, Ben Gault (14), has already completed his own 100-mile challenge and inspired more than £300 in donations.
Kay's sister, Heather, who lives in Jersey, took part with friends there to boost the total further. Her company, Ogier, also donated £1000.
And Philip’s Granny Jean, who lives in Fife, also went the extra kilometre to support the cause by walking 4km every day and organising a cheese and wine at her sheltered housing complex.
Eddie said: "There are so many moving examples of people rallying round to support us.
"I work at RAF Lossiemouth and my work shift colleagues all gathered at lunchtime and presented me with a lovely framed photograph of Philip looking so proud, ready for his first day at Elgin High School. They had all signed it and I was deeply moved by their thoughtfulness. They also presented me with £200 towards our fundraising."
Around 30 people took part in the walk in Philip's memory, carrying with them a chicken mascot. Chickens, along with dinosaurs, featured in a youth café film project which was enlivened by Philip's imagination and humour.
Their walk took in Borough Briggs, where Kay and Eddie have a memorial brick to Philip, and the convent gardens of St Sylvester’s where last week friends from Philip’s P7 year planted an apple tree and erected a plaque.
Youth worker Donna Breen said: "Philip’s death sent shockwaves through the community, and Kay and Eddie’s courage in organising this fundraising tribute in memory of Philip gave many of us the opportunity to let them know he lives on in precious memories.
"Their grief is palpable and in working so hard to make this day a success they have given many of us the opportunity to let them know there is ongoing support for them.
"I was also very moved by some people who came along who wanted to support Kay and Eddie because of the bravery they showed in going public with Philip’s story in Anti-Bullying Week last November, within weeks of his death.
"Suicide is still a very taboo subject. We need to have more open conversations if we are going to help people seeking help and those coming to terms with loss."
Kay and Eddie would like to thank everyone who helped to celebrate Philip's life by joining the challenge.
Their JustGiving fundraiser page, at www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/kay-polese-2, will remain open until the end of this month.