Blackpool based Paramedic Sharon Riley-Clarke has been working alongside her husband, Paul, for over four years to fundraise for memorial benches in Cleveleys, the latest of which being dedicated to emergency services.
Sharon and Paul keep bees and began selling lip balms that were created from their beeswax back in 2015, raising over £1,000 to place a memorial bench in Cleveleys town centre.
Sharon said: “I wanted to put the money I’d made to good use and for something which would benefit the community. I have a lot of respect for veterans, I’ve taken care of many of them over the years in my career and my father was in the Armed Forces which is where the idea came from.”
Since the original bench was placed in 2016, Sharon has received lots of interest from other local councils who have now placed their own benches in Fleetwood, Morecambe and Lancaster.
Last year, Sharon and Paul, who both live in Cleveleys, placed their second bench in the town. They kept up fundraising efforts alongside Mayoress for Wyre, Councillor Andrea Kay with a psychic evening as well as approaching local businesses for donations. Their efforts have been well-recognised in the town and the two were even asked to turn on the Christmas lights last year!
The newest bench to their collection has been placed opposite the previous bench alongside a soldier silhouette to create a memorial corner.
A special event was held on Thursday 7 November to reveal the bench which was attended by local school children as well as representatives from British Legion, local veterans and the Mayor and Mayoress of Wyre.
Sharon continues: “I felt it was important to include the school children as it’s an opportunity for them to learn about the war as well as have a dedicated area to reflect.”
Poems were read by the school children and a two minutes’ silence was observed before the bench was unveiled.
Looking ahead to their next project, Sharon and Paul have had a special emergency services memorial bench designed which commemorates those who serve, protect and save lives from the police, fire and ambulance services. This is particularly special for Sharon, who works for the ambulance service and her husband Paul, who is a retired police officer. They will continue to fundraise for memorial benches and are hoping to undertake a sponsored walk next year.