Appeal for bench in honour of inspirational Padiham girl Tia reaches £750 target in less than a month

An appeal, to raise money for a bench in memory of an inspirational little Padiham girl, has smashed its total in just under a month.

Tia (centre) with (from left to right) her sister Tegan, St John's headteacher Mrs Kathleen McKeating, Olympian Sophie Hitchon and Wendy Hitchon making a Jet Set Angel during Sophie's visit to the school in 2016 (photo by Kelvin Stuttard)
Tia (centre) with (from left to right) her sister Tegan, St John's headteacher Mrs Kathleen McKeating, Olympian Sophie Hitchon and Wendy Hitchon making a Jet Set Angel during Sophie's visit to the school in 2016 (photo by Kelvin Stuttard)

The £750 target for the bench, in memory of Tia Taggart, now stands at £770 after donations came flooding in when people heard about her family's wish to have a permanent memorial in her honour at her school, St John's RC Primary, which was one of her favourite places to be.

Due to the lockdown the bench plans have been put on hold but Tia's dad, Lee, hopes it will be made and put in place before the end of the school year so all of Tia's classmates can see it before they move to high school.

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The bench will be sited in the school's serenity garden that was created especially for Tia who would have turned 11 last month.

A quiet area, away from the 'rough and tumble' of the playground, Tia could still enjoy playtime there without fear of being knocked or hurt while she was undergoing treatment for the cancer she battled with bravery and dignity for three-and-a-half-years.

Although it will have to be strong and sturdy the bench will have features reflecting all the things that Tia loved including teddy bears, unicorns and balloons. And a mural, designed by Tia's older sister Tegan will be the focal point.

The bench will be placed close to another one that is sited there in memory of another pupil, Hayley Barker who died aged just 17 after battling leukaemia.

Tia underwent treatment at the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital since she was first diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer called Ewing Sarcoma.

The brave youngster underwent chemotherapy for tumours in her pelvis and legs as well as rounds of radiotherapy to treat her bone and lung cancers.

Despite everything Tia went through she was always determined to help others and was a loyal fundraiser for the hospital’s charity raising thousands through her unique Jet Set Angels scheme. This was a project that started off as a classroom challenge by Tia’s teacher Mrs Carol Carlile.

Children and staff started off making the tiny angels which ended up being sent around the world and championed by dozens of celebrities and even members of the Royal family.

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The project is still continuing today and money from the sale of the angels is being donated to a charity for families who have suffered miscarriages. And, of course, Tia's bench will be adorned by one of the Jet Set Angels

Tia's dad Lee said: "Tia's school played a massive part in her journey, we could not have managed without the support they gave us, they became like family.

"And Tia loved being at school so we couldn't think of a more fitting place than there for the bench to be placed and we would like to say a big thankyou to everyone who made a donation."

Tia loved being part of the Jet Set Angels project and was always happy to pose for the camera to publicise it. A bright and cheerful pupil she was famed for her smile and cheeky sense of humour.

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This term would have been her last at St John's before leaving for secondary school and one of Tia's final responsibilities would have been to play a role in the 'seeds and gardeners' scheme where reception class children are paired with a child from year six who looks after them and acts as mentor.

As a final tribute to Tia her family, including her parents, Lee and Gillian, were invited to the special seeds and gardeners assembly and all the teddy bears donated by well wishers at her funeral were handed out to the reception class children.

Donations can still be made to Tia's bench fund and any excess money will go towards treats for children at St John's and also Derian House children's hospice in Chorley.

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