Dad’s mission in memory of Castle School student Lucy

THE father of a Castle School sixth-form student who died on New Year’s Day has started a fundraising mission for the bereavement charity that supported his family.

Lucy Curtis died five days after an incident at an adolescent mental health unit in Bristol, which is subject to an ongoing investigation.

The Almondsbury family’s “world fell apart” when Lucy died, but they received valuable support from 2Wish, a charity which supports the bereaved families of young people.

Now dad Barry is raising money for 2Wish by walking the highest peaks of every county in England, Scotland and Wales between now and the autumn of next year – a total of 82 walks. 

He is also urging people to give blood and to sign up for organ donation, after Lucy’s organs were used to save the lives of several people including a young child.

Barry’s most recent walk was on June 20, which would have been Lucy’s 18th birthday, when he and 32 supporters climbed Pen Y Fan in Wales.

He described the walk as “in its own way absolutely beautiful but not without sadness”, adding: “The walk was done in a good spirt, reflecting on good memories.”

Barry (pictured above with Lucy) said his daughter was “very bright – a high achiever who loved the performing arts”.

She had performed at Bristol Hippodrome and in the West End.

Lucy was also a “massive animal lover”, and Barry and his wife Michelle bought their daughter a puppy, Rosie, to help her as she struggled with her mental health.

He said Lucy was “still absolutely happy 99% of the time” and was a busy “go-getter”, who worked as a barista for a café in Alveston.

Lucy was also “massively into music”, had seen Harry Styles twice and the Arctic Monkeys during a “proper year of live music”. 

Lucy had also had tickets to see American superstar Taylor Swift but never got to see her – her friends went, each with one of Lucy’s teddy bears that they had been given at Lucy’s funeral.

Barry Curtis with supporters at the top of Pen Y Fan

Last year Lucy was admitted first as a voluntary patient to a unit in Bridgwater then, after a few weeks at home, was admitted to the Riverside Unit at Blackberry Hill Hospital, in Fishponds, in mid-December.

She spent Christmas at home with her parents and sister Abi before voluntarily returning to the unit.

Barry says they received a call on December 27 to say there had been “an incident” at the Riverside and were advised to get to Southmead Hospital “very quickly”.

Lucy spent five days in intensive care but died on New Year’s Day.

The Riverside Unit, for patients aged between 13 and 18 with “complex and enduring mental health difficulties”, was closed indefinitely shortly afterwards, as Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust said it was not currently able to “consistently deliver a safe level of care”.

Barry said the family received a call from a director of the NHS trust to tell them of the closure but feels the family has been “excluded” from the inquiry into Lucy’s death, which is ongoing.

He said: “Lucy was a child and we still don’t really know everything. It may be two years before we get an inquest.”

Two days after Lucy’s death Barry was contacted by Rhian Mannings, the founder of charity 2wish, which supports families affected by the sudden death of a child or young adult aged under 25.

Rhian visited the family every two weeks and the charity offered grief counselling and alternative therapies.

Barry said: “It was very important to us at that time.”

Rhian founded the charity after losing her son and then her husband within days of each other.

The charity has also supported the family of Thornbury man Tyler Carley, who was killed in a road accident on the Avon Ring Road in December.

Barry says he has set himself a challenge to support 2Wish to give himself a purpose and to channel his grief.

Originally from Cornwall, he started his walking challenge in the county and plans end his series of walks there next year.

Everyone is welcome to join him.

Lucy’s bear Barney accompanies Barry on every walk, as does Gorgeous George the elephant, a cuddly toy named after 2Wish founder Rhian’s son.

Barry on top of Pen Y Fan with Lucy’s bear Barney and Gorgeous George, a toy elephant named the son of 2Wish’s founder

Barry said: “I want to raise awareness and get the word out that there is a charity that can help you at your lowest ebb.” 

As well as supporting the charity Barry is also calling on people to give blood, as Lucy needed a transfusion while she was in intensive care, and sign up for organ donation.

He said Lucy was particularly passionate about organ donation and had signed up as a donor twice – once when on a trip to New York with mum Michelle and then when she applied for her driving licence. 

Barry said knowing every organ Lucy had donated had been successfully was “very bittersweet”.

He said: “She saved eight or nine people.”

They included a seven-year-old child who needed a new liver.

Barry now aims to raise £30,000 and awareness of the services provided by 2Wish – by July 4 he had already raised more than £6,000.

To donate or get involved, visit the County Tops Challenge page.

Barry’s fundraising campaign can be followed on Facebook.