“She was a beautiful person, and this is her legacy” says Bev Gough of the foundation named after her beloved daughter Naomi.
The Naomi Cheri Gough Foundation offers financial help and emotional support to families of children killed on the road, as well as educating future drivers about avoiding dangerous driving.
It will hold it’s 11th annual Walk4Naomi from August 1-3, which sees between 20 and 30 people walk from Halifax to Blackpool, where Naomi went on her last day, to raise money for the charity.
“I think she’d think it was amazing,” says Bev. “She was a very kind, caring person.
“She would help people carry their shopping, she would step in if she saw someone being bullied.
“She was a beautiful person, and this is her legacy. I know she’d be proud of us, and she’d laugh her sides off that we walk to Blackpool every year because she didn’t walk anywhere!”
Bev and her husband Steve, from Baliliff Bridge, have built the foundation up from scratch over the last decade, after Naomi died in a car crash in 2007, into a vital means of support for families suffering the same tragedy they experienced.
“When Naomi died, we weren’t financially prepared,” says Bev, “but thanks to the goodwill of family and friends we were able to give her a good send-off, as people call it.
“The last thing you want to do for your child has to be special.
“Then I sat up one night thinking ‘I can’t let her death be in vain, I can’t let her life be for nothing’.
“Knowing we’d had this financial struggle, I thought of other parents going through this and wanted to raise money for them to pay for their children’s funerals.
“We didn’t know how to go about setting up a charity but we wanted to do something.
“Naomi’s friend Sarah said we should walk to Blackpool where Naomi spent her last day.
“With that, we raised some money, and then were thinking ‘what should we do with it?’
“We got on board with another charity and it grew from there.
“It gave me a focus because the pain of losing a child is absolutely unbearable. Some parents don’t make it. Others do but still struggle immensely.”
Bev devotes her time to the Foundation’s work, while Steve visits up to four schools per week with his presentation aimed at reducing road deaths caused by dangerous driving.
“We’ve struggled but we focus on helping others,” says Bev. “I sit and talk to mums, I message them.
“My husband volunteers his time alongside the No Way Trust, who do school visits.
“He focuses on our future drivers and does a powerful presentation on the consequences of irresponsible driving.
“He will not allow any naughty child who thinks it’s a laugh to be asked to leave the classroom. He has a laugh with them at first and then bam! He hits them with reality.
“We just hope we do get into their heads. Visitors and teachers at these presentations have cried. We’ve been told it should be part of the speed awareness course.
“Steve struggles with what happened to him in 2010 (he was assaulted while working as a prison officer) but this gives him a lifeline and something he can focus on.
“It does take it out of him both mentally and physically but he believes in what he’s doing and wants to get his message out.”
Bev admits helping other bereaved families can be a double-edged sword, taking it’s toll emotionally but helping them to feel they are making a difference.
“It’s been hard but it’s helped us,” she says.
“We might be contacted to say ‘can you come and meet my friend whose child has died’. Some people can’t do counselling, it didn’t work for me.
“I can see what they’re going through and tell them ‘it’s OK, this is what we went through, you’re not going mad’.
“It turns your whole world upside down. You’re in the middle of a whirlwind but you’re going really slow, and you don’t know how to think, you don’t know what to do, you can’t put one foot in-front of the other, you can’t get out of bed, you’re crying all the time, you’re angry.
“But helping them and giving them advice, it’s like my form of counselling too.
“You don’t want any other parents to go through it but sadly, it will never stop.
“I still see people driving while using their mobiles now, and it infuriates me.
“We were on the motorway and we saw a lad in a car flying past us on the outside lane with both his knees on the steering wheel, texting on his phone.
“I know they’re trialing cameras now to pick up a mobile signal, which would be brilliant.
“It’s mobile phones, it’s drinking, it’s drugs, but it’s people’s choices, and taking the wrong choice can end in catastrophe.”
Bev has big ambitions to grow the charity to help as many families as possible.
“You see families having to fundraise for their child’s funeral and we don’t want that,” she says. “We want to alleviate that pressure.
“We’d like undertakers, funeral directors to come on board with us so we can liase with them.
“We set-up on our own in 2016 and we’re really pushing ourselves. It’s a long, hard slog, but I’ve been told it’s like a layer on a cake at a time.
“We’re hoping to cover the whole of West Yorkshire with our charity. We don’t want families to get into debt or plead with family and friends to help them.
“We want to be recognised for the work we do with the big charities because we are needed.
“Behind the trauma and tragedy on the roads, there are people struggling and we want to help.
“We’d love businesses to help with donations and fundraising days so we can get into schools free of charge to give our presentations.
“We want to get into schools across West Yorkshire because I know of other children that have died on the roads in the region.”
The foundation held its first It’s A Knockout event recently, which raised around £5,000.
There was also a family fun day in Hebden Bridge in aid of the foundation.
The annual three-day Walk4Naomi takes place next week, and will be another emotional occasion for Bev.
“If you could see the mental and physical battles people have to face on the walk, but they will not give up,” she adds.
“They battle against themselves and the weather.
“It’s great fun. We camp on a little farm, there are people along the way who help us with accommodation and donations.
“We thought we’d do it once but people come from all over to take part.
“Between 20 and 30 people do it every year, some of whom didn’t even know Naomi, but hear about it through friends or Facebook.
“To be at the finish line and see those people struggling, it’s so emotional. I cried seeing all those people with blisters the first year we did it.
“They really can’t walk but they keep going. To think they’re doing that in memory of my daughter, and for our charity and other parents who will be in our nightmare, is just fantastic. They’re wonderful people.”
If you would like to donate, you can visit https://www.justgiving.com/naomicherigough.
You can also text NAOM16 followed by the pound sign and the amount you would like to donate to 70070.