Hartlepool dad who lost wife and eldest child in accident backs grief counselling campaign

Ian Richardson pictured with daughter Ava.
Ian Richardson pictured with daughter Ava.

A courageous dad is spearheading a scheme to help grieving children get counselling.

It is five years today since Ian Richardson lost his wife Joanne, 40, and eldest daughter Mya, six, in a road accident.

Ever since, he has raised money in their memory by setting up a charity called the Jo & Mya Memorial Fund.

Now, money from the fund will pay for two counsellors to be taken on by Hartlepool & District Hospice.

The counsellors will train teachers - in schools across Hartlepool, Billingham and East Durham - on how best to help children who have lost loved ones.

Hospice officials praised his actions as “phenomenal”.

Ian Richardson with his daughter Ava, who is celebrating her second birthday. Ian and Ava survived a car crash that killed Ava's mother and older sister.

Ian Richardson with his daughter Ava, who is celebrating her second birthday. Ian and Ava survived a car crash that killed Ava's mother and older sister.

Senior fundraising manager Rebecca Jobson said: “What Ian has achieved is beyond anything I have seen someone achieve on an individual basis.

“It is testament to their memory, the drive that he has had.

“It is beyond words.”

The hospice already runs a Children’s Bereavement Service which has been running since 2006.

But not every grieving child needs bereavement counselling. Some can be best helped by getting the support of people who are close to them, who know them and their families. And that includes teachers.

Thanks to the help of the Memorial Fund, the hospice can provide free services to teachers working with KS1, KS2 and KS3 pupils.

They include;

•An in-depth training programme covering bereavement, loss, and anticipatory grief and how it impacts on a child and their family.

•Workshops around working with grief and loss.

•And bespoke training to suit an organisation’s needs.

This project will initially be accessible to schools in the Hartlepool, Billingham and the east Durham areas with “a view to expanding as funding affords,” say hospice officials.

Ian, now 42, and his daughter Ava, now five, survived the accident in August 2010.

Ian, from Wolviston, said: “Five years ago this weekend, I experienced the unimaginable. Something that has changed the lives of my family and myself for ever.

“Shortly after, with the aid of friends and to help me deal with things, we started fundraising, from jumping out of planes, climbing mountains, running marathons, singing songs, to cash donations and business support,

“I’ve been overwhelmed and humbled by the support these past few years. There are simply far too many people to thanks individually.

“Throughout it all the purpose was clear. To help children at their darkest times. I was lucky, soon after the accident, I got professional help.

“Sadly from the stories I had heard, many children when they’d experienced the loss of a parent, sibling or close member of the family didn’t get access to help.

“I wanted to help through the fund, realising we needed to build a pot of money up to provide some tangible and long lasting support.”

Ian said the launch of the Jo & Mya Education Programme for Schools made him “proud to see how all the hard work these past few years is going to be channelled”.

He added: “I believe this programme has the potential to help hundreds of children if not more, not just now, but over the forthcoming years.

“I am proud to place Joanne and Mya’s name on the programme, and give something back to families in the area.”