Simon opens new garden
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.”