Si­mon opens new gar­den

The Wokingham Paper - - EDUCATION - By PHIL CREIGHTON

FOR­MER Sky Sports pre­sen­ter Si­mon Thomas opened a memo­rial gar­den to his late wife, a day be­fore the first an­niver­sary of her death.

On Fri­day, Novem­ber 23, to­gether with his son, he cut the rib­bon to the quiet gar­den at Son­ning CofE Pri­mary School in Son­ning. The gar­den was paid for by do­na­tions raised by the school in mem­ory of Gemma, who died of acute myeloid leukaemia, a rare form of blood can­cer.

The whole school turned out for the spe­cial event, led by head­teacher Luke Hen­der­son.

Also at­tend­ing were mem­bers of the school’s Par­ent Teacher As­so­ci­a­tion, and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of KIER con­struc­tion, who helped build the gar­den, and Chris Pud­di­foot from Wil­son & Scott, which gave the play­ground a facelift over the sum­mer holi­days.

In his speech, Mr Hen­der­son ex­plained that the area for the gar­den had been over­grown prior to work tak­ing place.

“The space has had three or four dif­fer­ent in­car­na­tions over the last 20 years or so, but I think this is the best,” he said. “Six months ago this space was over­grown. We made safe for the chil­dren, it’s been com­pletely trans­formed for a re­ally spe­cial rea­son.

“We fundraised to pro­vide the best pos­si­ble space we can.”

Dur­ing the sum­mer holi­days, KIER con­struc­tion do­nated a week’s labour to start mak­ing the gar­den a re­al­ity. Mr Hen­der­son said that par­ents also helped be­fore the school coun­cil chose spe­cial benches to in­stall and the school’s gar­den­ing club planted more than 150 bulbs, while white boards were in­stalled “to en­able the space to be an out­door class­room”.

He added: “We want to make it a spe­cial space to en­cour­age love and un­der­stand­ing, and to en­joy a beau­ti­ful sur­round­ing.”

Clare Bors­berry-Lewis, the school’s chair of gov­er­nors, said: “What a fan­tas­tic new out­door space here. The school coun­cil came up with won­der­ful ideas.

“Gemma was al­ways a sup­port­ive mem­ber of the school and an ac­tive mem­ber of the PTA.”

Then for­mer Blue Peter pre­sen­ter Si­mon Thomas came up to the front to ad­dress the chil­dren and thank them for their work in help­ing make the memo­rial gar­den a re­al­ity.

“Thank you to ev­ery sin­gle par­ent who gave so gen­er­ously so you can get to en­joy this,” he said, adding that the space was there for chil­dren who wanted to en­joy some time out and that bulbs planted by the gar­den­ing club would make it “like Santa’s grotto in July: it will look more beau­ti­ful”.

Over the past year, Mr Thomas has shared his jour­ney of grief via so­cial me­dia, of­fer­ing so­lace and en­cour­age­ment for oth­ers go­ing through sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tions as well as giv­ing him sup­port from well-wish­ers around the globe.

He added: “This isn’t all about us. I’m just eter­nally grate­ful that you did this, but this [gar­den] is for you.

“There are other fam­i­lies who are go­ing through tough times as well. Lots are go­ing through what I’m go­ing through.

“Why is this school so spe­cial? There’s that won­der­ful sense of com­mu­nity this place has. I found that out over this past year.”

He then told the chil­dren that al­though he lived out­side of the school’s catch­ment area, “we took a gam­ble” and said that af­ter he and Gemma had had a school tour she spent the evening jump­ing with joy around the house that they’d found the right place to send their son, Ethan.

“She would be noth­ing but proud at how this school has sup­ported us in the past 12 months.

“It un­der­lined the de­ci­sion to come here and this was the right place for him to be. Thank you.”

He con­cluded by telling the chil­dren: “This will be a gar­den where you en­joy peace, but also en­joy hav­ing fun.”

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