‘Bobby always wanted to help, he’d love that there’s this centre with his name on’
1 month ago
It’s almost nine years since Bobby Colleran was killed in a road accident as he walked home from school in West Derby with mum Joanne.
But his family still talk about him every day; they wonder what he’d be like and what he’d be doing now.
Bobby, who was just six when he died, should have been studying for his GCSEs and celebrating his 15th birthday in March.
Instead, the date will mark the culmination of years of fundraising with the opening of Bobby’s Base, a new bereavement support and mental health centre for children.
“It is a hard day, especially for me as his mum, but since it happened we’ve always done something positive to celebrate because it’s the day he came into the world,” says Joanne. “Wear Blue For Bobby Day came from that and this year the centre will officially be born on his birthday.
“Bobby was quite old for his age, he was such a character and he always wanted to help everybody. He’d always take people under his wing. We talk about him all the time and laugh about the little things he’d do and what he’d say if he was here.
“I know he’d really love the new centre, he’d be so excited to see his name up there, and that’s been one of the things that’s kept us going.”
After the accident, the family set up The Bobby Colleran Trust and dedicated themselves to improving road safety, campaigning for 20mph Bobby Zones outside schools.
They were also keen to provide bereavement counselling for young people having seen the affect that losing Bobby had on their younger twins and older son.
“It had such a big impact on the other three boys, especially Harry who was eight at the time.
“He wouldn’t go to school for nearly two years, he developed anxiety because he thought I was going to die and he blamed himself because we were on our way to pick him up when it happened.
“It just opened up so many other things, every different emotion you could possibly imagine, because their whole world fell apart.
“We went everywhere to try and help Harry but the doors kept getting shut because he couldn’t physically speak about his brother, he was so traumatised.”
It was staff on the reception of Harry’s school who pointed Joanne in the direction of a counsellor, Joan.
“A lot of bereavement support is speaking about what’s happened, but Joan doesn’t work like that, ” explains Joanne. “The way she builds children up is just fantastic and as soon as Harry started seeing her we never looked back.”
Understanding how important it is to help children cope with loss, in 2018 the Trust decided to extend its work to include bereavement support. Joanne asked Joan to join the charity, offering counselling sessions in schools.
As demand for the support grew, Joanne says they realised they needed not only a base for the charity but somewhere with privacy that counselling could continue even when schools weren’t open.
It was then they came up with the idea of Bobby’s Base to provide one-to-one, family and group bereavement counselling, plus more general mental health sessions and coping advice for children who might be struggling.
Bobby’s school, Blackmoor Park Infants, which already has a memorial garden and an interactive cave in his memory, suggested Bobby’s Base should also be there.
“The headteacher has been so supportive so when I said we were looking for somewhere she said, ‘it’s got to be here’,” says Joanne.
Fundraising, donations and people giving their time to work on the site has allowed the charity to buy the building, fit it out exactly how they want it, and create an outdoor area for therapy too.
Now Joanne says they’re almost ready to officially open on Bobby’s birthday, March 13, and give other children the kind of help that’s meant so much to her own boys.
“We’ve seen the difference it makes and that’s where my passion lies,” she adds.
“Harry did his GCSEs last year and came away with great results including four A*. He missed so much of school, most of year 4 and year 5, and he developed an exam anxiety, but the support he got gave him confidence in himself again.
“He’s in sixth form now and for me, he’s the success story, after everything he’s been through. It shows how important counselling can be and I don’t know what he would have become without it.
“I was scared because I didn’t want to lose another child, but now he’s so grounded, he’s the loveliest boy and he’s doing so well. The difference from where he was to where he is now is amazing, and having the right counselling has helped him to get there.”