Emotional trip ahead for family in memory of Gary

Gary Hedley with members of the family he stayed with in the Nausori region of Fiji in 2014.
Gary Hedley with members of the family he stayed with in the Nausori region of Fiji in 2014.

Three members of a Morpeth family will soon be going on a poignant two-week trip to Fiji.

Gary Hedley and best friend Lee Pollard, also of Morpeth, died following a one-vehicle collision near Guide Post on November 19, 2015. They were aged 24 and 23 respectively.

A memorial bench for Gary Hedley and Lee Pollard was installed at High Stanners in Morpeth.

A memorial bench for Gary Hedley and Lee Pollard was installed at High Stanners in Morpeth.

Their love of travelling took them to many places and Gary visited Fiji in the summer of 2014 as part of a trip organised by the Think Pacific charity.

He stayed with a family at a village in the Nausori area and said the experience was amazing, although he believed the villagers deserved more support.

Following his death, the Hedley family have sent more than 60 special Gary’s Gift choir robes to the village.

They have also been fund-raising to fill backpacks to give to children out there and Gary’s parents, Jennifer and Tony, and aunt Isobel Jewitt will start their journey to the village on November 8.

The items include books, pens, pencils, rubbers and rulers for school as well as sweets and clothing items.

Jennifer said: “I can’t believe that we will be going to Fiji in a couple of weeks and it will be very special feeling for us when we see the village that Gary stayed in three years ago.

“When you stay with a family in Fiji, you become part of their family and they loved Gary. They held their own memorial service on the day we buried him.

“We will be attending a village wedding during our stay and we’ve been told that we will be among the people at the top table.

“It’s going to be an emotional trip because we’ll still be there on the second anniversary of his death, but I know that it’s going to be a wonderful experience. I’ve known for a while that I want to go to the far-away places he walked and see his world.

“The manager of Think Pacific got in touch when I liked a post from the charity on Facebook and so during the visit, we will meet the man from the charity who is stationed in Fiji.”

In addition to donations, fund-raising activities have taken place for the backpack items.

For example, a total of 27 teams took part in the Big Fat Morpeth Pub Quiz, which took place at Riverside Lodge in June, and a group of 11 did the Colour Obstacle Rush in Gosforth.

Jennifer said: “We’ve received such fantastic support from the public and this has enabled us to buy a decent number of items for the children in Fiji.

“After the trip, we will carry on with the fund-raising for the village and local causes.

“Gary’s friends have also been brilliant and there were 80 people in attendance for a party we did on September 16, when Gary would have turned 26.”

The family is also supporting individuals in Northumberland, such as a girl from Cramlington who was fund-raising to do some volunteering in South Africa.

Gary, a former King Edward VI School student, had completed a degree in events management at Leeds Beckett University in the summer of 2015.

He spent most of his year out in the middle of his degree working at a hostel in Peru.

Hundreds of people, locally and from all over the world, sent the family cards and messages, or posted their condolences on his Facebook page.

Lee graduated from Sunderland University with a degree in journalism in 2015 and built up his experience working with community website Sunderland Now.

He had completed a course on teaching English as a foreign language and the former KEVI pupil was set to attend an interview in January 2016 for a post in Japan.

A memorial bench for Lee and Gary was installed at High Stanners. Bedlington-based Falon Nameplates Ltd made the plaque for the bench.