Sergeant Trevor Bygate, of the Wattisham-based 3 Regiment Army Air Corp, was on a military exercise in America when he learned that his 19 year old daughter Chloe had been found dead in her flat in Wales in April 2014. Trevor has been chosen to receive a Child Bereavement UK 21 Champions Award in recognition of his phenomenal fundraising endeavours to help others facing the devastation of the death of a child.
“I serve in 3 Regiment Army Air Corp which is an Apache attack helicopter Regiment. I was on a military exercise in the Arizona desert when I got the phone call to tell me that Chloe had died. I had to fly back, talk to the coroner and organise the funeral. Juggling my job, my grief and two little ones – as well as seeing Chloe’s other brother and sister who live in Wales – it was really hard. I was off work for 11 weeks.
Fundraising for Child Bereavement UK has given me something to focus on. I have learnt a lot and there have been some positives coming out of it. I did a fair bit of fundraising for various charities before Chloe died, such as organising a poppy run at Camp Bastion at 11pm on 11/11. I had been injured and had an operation on my knee, so was doing cycle rides as part of my rehabilitation. It gathered momentum from there.
I got good welfare from the military. I was dealing with a lot on my own after Chloe’s death and had nowhere to turn. They gave me Child Bereavement UK’s number and the support has been brilliant – they’ve helped me so much. I also had some counseling sessions from my local Cruse and church in Hadleigh. The last time I spoke to Chloe was 10 days before she died, on the phone whilst I was on military exercise in America. I told her when I got back I’d see her. That’s the hardest thing for me – I always wonder if I’d been home whether she’d have given me a cry for help.
I wanted to fundraise for Child Bereavement UK to raise awareness and to help other families who are going through the same pain as I am going through. I aim to raise £10k in memory of Chloe by 7th June 2015 – her 21st birthday – and do as many challenges as I can to reach my goal. I did a coast-to- coast bike ride which raised £3k, a 24hr Cycle in a big Tesco’s store in Ipswich and then went on to run the Barcelona marathon. I’ve organized a Fun Run on the base I work on and I’ll be taking part in the Brighton marathon on April 12th then the London marathon two weeks later on April 26th.
It’s really poignant and ironic that it’s Chloe’s 21st birthday as well as Child Bereavement UK’s. On the night of her birthday I’m taking part in Nightrider – cycling 100km around London overnight. It’s as much about raising awareness of the charity as it is about raising funds. When I was doing the Tesco cycle ride, a couple came up to me who were foster carers for a child in care who’d lost a parent. I told them about the charity and they said how much it would help them to get guidance for him. Lots of people say they didn’t have support like this available to them when someone died so it’s really important, at the end of the day, that I can do something positive. If I’m helping other people it helps me too, not to get over my grief but to keep a focus.
I’ve organised an on-line auction which I’ll keep open until Chloe’s birthday. I’ve had a Child Bereavement UK cycling shirt signed by Chris Hoy and Bradley Wiggins – I’ve had it professionally framed and am auctioning it for Child Bereavement UK. I’m going to get the head physio of the England Rugby squad to get them to sign a shirt for me at Twickenham and I’ve also had a Middlesbrough shirt signed. I tweeted the players and Lee Tomlin signed it and gave me a signed football from the club. I’ll auction those too. When Chloe came to see me when I was based in Germany, I had an England shirt that had been signed by Steven Gerrard which I’d had signed for her. When I went to her flat after she’d died, I found it. I’ve had that framed too – but I’m keeping that one.
In May, my church in Hadleigh which reaches 20,000 people are holding a fair for Dying Matters week; I have offered to man a Child Bereavement UK stand and someone from the office will come along to support me on the day. I’m quite open about my grief and willing to talk to others about it.
If I hadn’t had Child Bereavement UK and all their events, it could have gone the opposite way for me. I’ve kept myself busy. I know someone who took his own life when he lost his son at 20; some people are never able to go back to work. I’m not over it, but I’ve been focusing on making Chloe proud. I’ve learnt, from all the fundraising I’ve done, that I’ve got to tell people about what good the charity does – I talk about what happened to me and the support they’ve given me. Fundraising hasn’t masked my grief – I haven’t done it to hide – I’ve done it to give me a focus. And I know that Chloe is looking down on me – if I can use her spirit to push me to help others then it can only be a good thing.
I was disappointed that my children’s school didn’t give them any support when Chloe died. Bodie is 9 and Talia is 6. Bodie took in one of Chloe’s books and a picture for Show and Tell. I’ve heard that Child Bereavement UK has Elephant’s Tea Party to help young children in schools – it sounds like a good thing. You feel you have to protect children – I was scared to tell the little ones until after the funeral. I don’t know if that’s right or wrong but you just deal with it how you deal with it. I have lit over 270 candles for Chloe – I light one every day. I also have a rose that’s named after her – it’s in a pot in the garden as we might get relocated and I want to be able to take it with me. My other son, who is 18, is going to be a father – I’m going to be a Grandad! He’s bringing life into the world; it’s not going to be easy for him but you learn as you go. Like I do – you’ve just got to keep going really. I’ve had brilliant support.
I’m more driven than ever to help others in the memory of Chloe. She has given me the determination to help others who are suffering the same pain as myself. Chloe was my princess and now she is my Angel. I hope she would be proud of me.
To sponsor Trevor, please go to: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/TrevorBygate