Covid death of 'selfless and one in a million' Burnley College tutor prompts her heartbroken family to call for people to take virus seriously
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Family and friends are still coming to terms with the death of Donna Coleman, who had spent the last four years working at the college as a programme leader and tutor in employability skills for vulnerable young people and adults.
Donna's sister, Vicki Coleman, said: "Donna had no underlying health issues and was never ill or had time off sick.
"She had only been in hospital once in her life and that was as a child to have her tonsils out. People need to take the lockdown seriously and realise that this virus is real."
A fund, set up in honour of the dedicated tutor, has raised £9,000 in just days.
The money raised in Donna's memory will be put into a trust fund for six-year-old Amalee who is the daughter of one of Donna's closest friends who died aged just 37 five years ago. Donna promised her friend she would continue to be part of Amalee's life and keep her mum's memories alive.
True to her word Donna honoured her pledge and was like a second mum to Amalee. She picked her up from school once a week, had her for tea and took her on shopping trips and days out at the seaside.
Donna's sister, Vicki Coleman, said: "Donna has been a huge part of Amalee's life and the fact she lost her mum and now her auntie Donna is devastating.
"We, as a family, feel that the right thing to do is to allow the promises Donna made to this little girl to be carried out as it is what she would have wanted.
"So we have decided that any donations received will be put in trust for her, so that when she's old enough she can spend it on whatever she needs or she will be able to go travelling, with her auntie Donna by her side, in spirit."
Donna was diagnosed with Covid-19 just before Christmas. And although she appeared to be recovering from the virus she took a turn for the worst and was rushed to the Royal Blackburn Hospital where she died on Wednesday last week.
Popular and well liked by staff and students at the college where she was described as a 'huge presence' Donna loved her job and 'lived for work' according to Vicki.
She said: "Donna deserves to be recognised as she has touched so many people’s lives. She never did anything for herself, it was always about other people.
"She loved to help people, she had a big heart and she would have done anything for anyone.
"Her job involved helping people get their lives on track and she also played a big part in helping vulnerable young people to stay in education.
“Donna has helped countless people, both in and out of her work, and she’s changed the lives of many more.
“People would turn to Donna for help and she would do her utmost to get them on the straight and narrow, into work and to change their lives.
“We are devastated beyond belief and at the moment it doesn't seem real."
An Instagram page called @donnaswish has been set up for friends, colleagues and former students to post their own memories and tributes. In one moving testimony the parent of one of Donna's pupils expresses her sadness and regret that Donna will never know how her son has been accepted into the Parachute Regiment at just 16.
The parent said it was Donna's 'hard work and dedication' that helped him to achieve this, adding: "I know how proud she would have been of him. Donna genuinely cared for him and she believed in him when no-one else did."
Another parent described Donna as 'the most passionate, dedicated and caring educator I have ever met. This lady changed my son's life.'
Originally from Bolton, Donna moved to Rossendale as a child with her family and spent many years of her career working at North Lancs Training Group in Accrington. Former colleagues there have created their own unique video in Donna's memory with a montage of photographs and personal tributes.
One moving tribute describes Donna as 'one in a million' and goes on to say: 'Your smile lit up the room, your laugh was infectious and you gave hugs like no-one else could. My loyal, beautiful friend, I will miss you but never forget you.'
One of four children, Donna had spent a number of years living with her younger sister Stephanie.
Vicki said: "We are a close family but Donna and Stephanie were best friends aswell as sisters. They did everything together, even travelling the world.
"Donna was selfless, family-orientated and an amazing friend who would take anyone under her wing.
“As a family we know that her legacy will live on with those people that she has helped.”
Donna's funeral will be held on Monday (January 18th.) The cortege will leave her home in Crawshawbooth at 1pm and the route will take in Rawtenstall and Accrington through to Accrington Crematorium for a service at 1-40pm.
As numbers at the funeral are restricted anyone who wishes to pay their respects to Donna can do so along the route, observing social distancing rules.
Donna also leaves her parents, Danny and Carole, brother Daniel, nieces Ella and Indi, nephew Finlay, brother-in-law Tony and sister-in-law Claire.
If you like to make a donation to the trust fund in Donna's memory please click HERE