The devastation left by the terror attack at Manchester Arena in 2017 will resonate a lifetime for those who have lost a loved one. For former police officer Aaron Parmar, supporting those families was more than a job. It was about helping people to come to terms with their trauma and grief. Now, almost two years on, he has pledged to take part in 22 10k races and dedicate each one to one of the 22 victims who lost their life, with all funds going towards We Love MCR Charity.
Aaron Parmar was working with Greater Manchester Police at the time of the bombing of Manchester Arena.
As he was called upon in the aftermath, he was professional to the core and formed a strong bond with some of the family members who were coming to terms with the impact of the attack following the Ariana Grande concert.
He took care of members of the Tron family, from Newcastle, who had lost their son, Philip, 32 and his step-daughter Courtney Boyle.
He is determined to show them that their loved ones are not forgotten, and so has begun a challenge of 22 10k races in honour of those who had their lives cruelly taken away. Each medal he receives at the event will be engraved with a victim’s name and sent to their family.
The 33-year-old, who is now a firefighter in Oldham, took on his first race in Autumn and will end on May 19, with the Manchester 10k, in honour of eight-year-old Saffie Roussos, of Leyland.
He has already completed the Ribble Valley 10k in memory of Georgina Callander, 18, from Hesketh Bank, and the Accrington 10k in honour of Michelle Kiss, 45, from Whalley.
Read more: Emotional scenes as mother describes last time she saw terror victim Georgina and 'She was a guardian angel' - family of Michelle Kiss pay emotional tribute
He has also completed the Hunters 10k in Lostock Hall for Angelika Klis, 39, from York, and the 2019 Blackburn Winter Warmer 10k for Kelly Brewster, 32, from Sheffield.
He is now gearing up to do the Stanley Park 10k in Blackpool, on Sunday, February 24 in honour of Jane Tweddle, 51.
As the Blackpool mother-of-three used to love going to the park, Aaron could not think of any better tribute.
Read more about Jane: School receptionist confirmed dead in Manchester suicide bombing
Aaron says: “I am not a runner, but I wanted to do 22 marathons, but that would be too physically demanding and I need to stay fit for my job. I knew I could do a 10k and so I decided to do one for each victim.
“I have gone for official races and tried to be as close as possible to the victims’ home towns, but that has not always been possible.
“I have been in touch with running clubs and they have supported me. Blackburn Road Runners has been unbelievable.
“I decided to dedicate my last race to Saffie, who was the youngest victim. That was the one that really got me emotionally. The Manchester 10k will be massive, as it is so close to the anniversary.
“As it is the last one, I will be wearing my full firefighter kit. It will be a real big effort for her and it will be quite emotional.”
Read more about Saffie: 'If it wasn't for the generosity of the public, we'd be on the streets' - dad of terror victim Saffie Roussos
Aaron, who left the police force to become a firefighter shortly after the attack, can still recall the scenes on May 22 2017.
He says: “The best way to describe it as a ‘bit of a blur’.
“It was emotional, but we were there in a professional role and we had a job to do.
“One key skill is empathy. I was watching a family’s life fall apart and you can’t help but feel it with them.
“It was hard watching them go through it all and not being able to take it away from them.
“It was also a proud time for the police force. The whole country was behind us. We were dedicated to our work and sacrificed our home lives to be there for the victims and their families.”
Philip Tron, 32, was amongst the victims, along with his step-daughter, Courtney Boyle, 19.
Aaron was there every step of the way in supporting their families in the aftermath.
He recalls: “I was working with them for a couple of weeks. Through working with them I built a bond with them.
“They are still grieving and finding it difficult. I think about them every day.
“We became friends as a result and we have kept in touch almost every day though social media for almost two years. They encouraged me to be a firefighter, saying life was too short and it really struck a note with me.
“Even though I have changed roles, I will want them to know I am still thinking out them.”
Aaron originally aimed to raise £500, but after gaining support from the victims’ families, he has now raised more than £6,500 for the We Love MCR Charity.
The father-of-one, from Rochdale, is now aiming for £10,000.
He adds: “Since I started this, it has escalated. The support I have had from families and the public has been overwhelming.
“Through the power of social media, I have been able to reach out to the families of the victims and they have sent me private messages to thank me and wish me well, which is really nice.
“I am doing this for the families of the 22 victims. It is also for the 800 who were physically injured and the 3,000 people who are receiving counselling. It might go a bit of the way to help them.”
To support Aaron, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/aaronleegmfrs.