On the 29th of January 2010 my perspective on life changed forever. That was the day my little brother decided that his life was too hard, difficult and painful to continue. In the first few weeks after his death I kept waiting for someone to step forward and make everything ok again. Surely this was a joke? Pete was going to come home with a massive hangover, right? My kind, gentle, quiet, smiley, shy, thoughtful little brother was going to be around forever, right? Wrong.  

Pete was missing for five days. I have never felt such despair and helplessness. I watched my whole family deteriorate in front of my eyes with every passing hour. We had a wonderful support group of friends and extended family who rallied round and helped to keep us going. But as each night drew in we knew our chances of a happy outcome were diminishing. The first day was the most frustrating - the police had all available officers searching but it just wasn't enough for the terrain. We often say "its a small world" but let me assure you, when you are looking for a five foot six, eight stone, twenty-four year old in rural Cornwall, the world seems enormous.

On the second day, the cavalry arrived – the Cornwall and North Dartmoor Search and Rescue Teams. Just seeing them arrive in their droves, setting up their vans and radio systems gave us the much-needed reassurance that everything that could be done was being done. I must confess that at that point I couldn't care less who they were and where they had come from. One thing and one thing only was driving me and that was finding Pete. During our time as a fundraising group (2010 – 2014) we are extremely proud to have donated over £9k to Cornwall Search and Rescue which has purchased items such as a Land Rover (the Dragon Wagon) and a defibrillator (Dragon Heart).

Bereavement after suicide is an extremely painful experience, which brings with it a whole range of complicated emotions. I was at a loss with how to cope with my own feelings let alone that of my children who were aged 20, 15, 13 and 11. Pete had been a model uncle, involved in everything they did. Thank goodness for my GP referring me to Balloons, a specialist child bereavement service. We are extremely proud to have donated over £1500 and even more proud to now work alongside them supporting young people in Devon bereaved by suicide.

In 2015, everything changed. I have always made a point of doing special things on Pete’s Birthday. I had a lovely trip away planned but it was cancelled and rebooking slipped my mind. I woke up in the morning and realised what day it was. What was I to do? It was too late to arrange anything. An idea popped into my head…before I could talk myself out of it I rang the local airfield and booked a skydive for a future date for 10 people. I launched the campaign to find those ten people and ended up with 30 skydivers!!!! The skydive changed the face of Pete’s Dragons forever, it changed our focus with us deciding to donate half of the skydive money to Samaritans, it also brought in an amazing family of Dragons who have stayed in touch and continue to help us in many different ways as often as they can. We realised it was decision time. Do we stay as just a fundraising group or do we become a registered charity and undertake our own projects? It was a no-brainer, Pete’s Dragons have always enjoyed a challenge!!!!!

Go big or go home right?  

Since then the Pete’s Dragons journey has been an epic rollercoaster.I left my legal career to retrain to be able to provide support to those bereaved by suicide. Realising that no specialist service existed in Devon made me determined to fill that gap.

Our registered charity status enabled us to realise our dream and we are now fully engaged in supporting people and families affected by suicide across both Devon and Cornwall. We do this in a number of ways and are always looking for new ones in order that we retain our primary objective of treating each person within our service as an individual and ensuring that the support they receive from us completely suits them and their unique circumstances. Our ethos is rather evolutionary in that we ask “what do you need from us?” as opposed to stating “this is what we offer”.We do not hold waiting lists, help is immediate and completely bespoke – if we don’t have what a person needs in our skill set then we will find it or buy it in.However, this all comes at a price…

I worked for no pay for two and a half years, 60-80 hour weeks became normal (and still are!).My personal finances became untenable but I still couldn’t give up.I KNEW I was doing the “right thing”.I could regularly be found travelling the County of Devon from Ilfracombe to Torquay in a day seeing bereaved people along the route.I would then have to switch my attention to raising funds and keeping the charity afloat.When I look back now, even I have to wonder how I did it.

Slowly things began to change. Devon and Cornwall Police saw the value of our service and provided some funding to help us along, this gave us an element of credibility and a much-needed boost.Public Health Devon evaluated the service based on the D&C funding and found that the breadth of work we were doing was essential and life-saving.However, we did sadly reach another crunch point in late 2016 where things looked as though we were not going to be able to sustain ourselves.I had some decisions to make.Having put my heart and soul into the charity and now having seen and experienced first-hand the difference we were making and how vital it was…I had to make it work.

Go big or go home right…?I was determined to go big.  

Things have dramatically changed since then.Although we still do not receive any assistance or funding from statutory organisations despite taking the strain away from local NHS and mental health waiting lists, we have grown enormously.We have the support of our local communities and have become skilled at applying for grants and funds.Our training suite has expanded and provides a revenue stream and we have a couple of big plans afoot for 2019.

What kept me going through the difficult times? I have an incredible team of staff who go over and above what is required of them to ensure our beneficiaries receive the care and support they need as soon as they need it.We have the best army of supporters possible. I often get overwhelmed by their generosity; Pete’s Dragons really is a silver lining. I meet the most incredible people who push themselves to the limit, give up huge amounts of time, money and belongings, bake cakes, brainstorm, organise events………..the list goes on. How honoured and grateful I am to know them.

Has it been hard? It certainly has.However, it has been the best, most challenging and most rewarding experience of my life.It has led me to meeting incredible people, pushing myself to limits beyond which I thought I was capable and has helped more people already than I had envisaged at the start.AND we are only 4 years old, we have lots of life in us yet!!

Sadly, I can't have my little brother back, my mum can't have her son back and all of our beneficiaries cannot have their loved ones back BUT what we can do, with your help, is ensure that we continue to assist those that are bereaved by suicide in a way and at a time when they need it the most

Thank you.  
Big Dragon Hugs
Love Diva x