The family of the ‘happiest’ little boy who died from a rare condition have unveiled a ‘beautiful’ lasting tribute.
Jude Drinkwater’s parents have helped raise around £500 to install a ‘buddy bench’ in a Heaton Chapel park.
Last week would have been Jude’s fourth birthday. The toddler, who suffered from a genetic disorder that affects brain development, died aged 22 months on New Year’s Day 2020.
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In girls, Rett Syndrome can lead to severe disability. In boys, it is fatal.
Last year dad Phil walked from Stockport to Crosby Beach to help raise funds for the memorial bench in Manchester Road Park, Heaton Chapel,.
The Drinkwater family installed the bench on February 25 to mark Jude’s 4th birthday – introducing him to his brand new baby sister Marnie, who was born in January.
Dad Phil Drinkwater said: “We knew the bench would be a beautiful thing.
“But we didn’t quite realize how important it would be for us, our friends and our family to have a place to go together to remember Jude and celebrate his life.
“We walk past it every day, and it helps us remain close to our son in a way that’s hard to describe.
Phil said he has been amazed by the community’s response to the bench.
He added: “Almost every time we walk past, there are families or friends gathered there, reading the inscription or just hanging out.
“It seems to have become a focal point for our locals and neighbours, who send us messages all the time about how much they love it at the center of the park.
“It’s just another way now that Jude lives on with us in our everyday lives, helping to raise awareness of Rett Syndrome and the charity Reverse Rett, and to keep our boy at the center of our lives in a way that brings joy to the area .”
Phil, a self-proclaimed ‘cut-price Mancunian Froddo Baggins’, took part in a 12-hour, 40-mile walk from Stockport to Crosby Beach to raise the funds.
At the time, Phil said: “The fact that Jude had been with us at all had defied all odds and expectations and we were so thankful that we’d had this time with him.
“We found both comfort and relief in finally knowing what it was that Jude had been living with.
“He was a fighter from the beginning until the very end. Although this story doesn’t have a happy ending for our precious baby boy, we want to do everything we can to help others.
“He was beautiful and so loved by everybody who met him. We are determined to share his story with him and make sure that we only have happy thoughts and memories.
“Manchester Road Park is an integral part of our local community. We wanted to put something positive into the local area for our neighbors that also worked as a place to come and remember Jude.”
Almost 12 months later, after a successful campaign and grueling walk, a rainbow bench now sits in pride of place for locals to enjoy and the family to remember their little one.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.