Family and friends of a football-mad teen who was tragically killed in a road accident gathered at the unveiling of a sporting tribute built in his honour.
Rhys Hewitt, 14, was killed on October 15 last year after he was hit by a car while crossing the road outside the Stagecoach depot on Brenda Road, in Hartlepool.
Now, a year on since his death, a dug-out has been built beside the football pitch at his old school English Martyrs, as a lasting memorial to the much-loved teen.
Around 300 people turned out to the offical opening of the dug-out on Saturday, which saw Rhys’ former teammates play in a tribute match between the English Martyrs XI and Pools Youth FC.
The dug-out was constructed by Gus Robinson Developments Ltd, a Hartlepool-based firm which has strong links with the school, with assistance from other local firms including Acorn Landscapes, Ian Bond Brickwork & Stonework, Steven McConnell Roofing and JT Atkinson.
The structure features personalised bricks with the names and messages from those closest to him with the words: ”In loving memory of Rhys Oliver Hewitt. Always in our thoughts. Always in our hearts. RIP.”
Former Martyrs headteacher Michael Lee paid tribute to Rhys, followed by a similar tribute from Father Jim Angus. Mr Lee said said learning behaviour mentor Mark Blackwood was instrumental in ensuring the memorial dug-out become a reality. He said: “We are here this morning to pay tribute to the memory of a very special young man. Rhys was a remarkable young man. He had many passions-one of which was football. This dug-out is a fitting tribute to Rhys and will ensure he will never be forgotten.”
Rhys’s dad Marty Hewitt, said the dug-out was a legacy for his son.
He added: “The last 12 month have been very hard. But Hartlepool people have a stong community. The school’s Mr Blackwood and Mrs Fox have been instrumental in keeping his memory alive. This is a lovely tribute that is a legacy.”
Flanked by Rhys’ mum Jan Bushnall and his daughters Jasmine and Sophie Hewitt, Mr Hewitt added : “It is nice to see so many people turn up for the opening of this dug-out, and we are extremely grateful to English Martyrs, Gus Robinson Developments and everyone else who has played a part in arranging this.
“Rhys was a huge football fan, so this is a lovely way to pay tribute to him.”
After the speeches, blue balloons carrying messages for Rhys were released and a minute’s silence was held prior to the match which then turned into applause.
Steve Bell, Managing Director at Gus Robinson Developments Ltd, said; “This was a tragedy which touched the hearts of everybody in Hartlepool, and as soon as we heard of the proposals to pay tribute to Rhys in this way we had no hesitation in getting involved.
“Getting involved with the community is something which we pride ourselves on within the company, and in this particular project it has been good to work alongside other local businesses.
“I’m delighted with the construction, Rhys loved his football so it is very fitting that his friends can remember him in this way.”