After months of fund-raising and dealing with customs issues, a Morpeth family has sent more than 60 special choir robes to villagers on an island 10,000 miles away in memory of Gary Hedley.
He 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.
Gary loved to travel and one of the many countries he visited was Fiji. This trip in the summer of 2014 was organised through Leeds Beckett University, where he completed a degree in events management.
His mum Jennifer told the Herald that he did some fund-raising to go out there and he stayed with a family at a village in the Nausori region.
He thought the residents there should have received more important items – such as pens, pencils and books for the children – than they did with the overall money that was raised and so he was planning to return to Fiji and take them himself.
Gary’s family were determined to help the village following his death.
Jennifer said: “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 did some fund-raising ourselves and the response from Gary’s friends and the community was fantastic.
“It started off as pens, pencils and books, and we’re planning to send out backpacks with these and other items in them, but we also had the funds to buy much-needed robes and stoles for the choir at the village church – the father of the family Gary stayed with is the minister.
“It took a while to go through customs, but we’re delighted that they have now reached the village and everyone there is thrilled with them.
“Gary’s Gift has been embroidered on the yellow stoles, which means his name will be present in the village for many years to come.
“We’re hoping to go out there in November as they have invited us to a wedding that is being held in the village.”
The Hedley family are also looking to help projects in Morpeth and Northumberland that Gary would have been passionate about and they are supporting a girl from Cramlington who is aiming to raise the required funds to do some volunteering in South Africa.
They have booked the Riverside Lodge on June 30, and they are organising what they hope will be Morpeth’s biggest ever pub quiz.
Jennifer added that they are also supporting the efforts of Lee’s family, who will be doing some fund-raising activities in aid of homeless people as Lee had a passion for highlighting the issues facing the homeless and refugees in his role as a community journalist.
A memorial bench for Lee and Gary was installed at High Stanners. Bedlington-based Falon Nameplates Ltd made the plaque for the bench.