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Intricate quilt set to boost charity appeal
30/07/2015

A mother who crafted an intricate handmade quilt to raise awareness of mental health issues following the death of her son is offering individuals or businesses the chance to commission their own unique quilt to raise vital charity funds.

The mother (who wishes to remain anonymous) will also raffle an existing quilt, all to help send members of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust's (NSFT) Youth Council to a global conference in Canada focusing on improving mental health services.

She has pledged to make a unique quilt for any individual or business that will sponsor one member's whole travel and attendance costs for the International Association for Youth Mental Health conference, in Montreal.

The highest bidder will win the commission, with bids starting at no lower than £500 – as it will cost around £2,000 to send each youth council member to Montreal in October.

At the conference they will share their experiences of mental ill health and services with young people and mental health experts from around the world, before visiting youth projects to gain inspiration and information so they can kick-start new initiatives back home.

And the quilt maker hopes that her handiwork will do its bit to help take the 16-strong Youth Council group one step closer to their total fundraising target of £36,000.

"My oldest son Tim struggled for years with mental health problems and sadly passed away last year aged just 30," said Tim's mum. "He was a remarkable person and had a generosity and warmth about him that touched many lives positively.

"He was really interested when I took up quilt-making and asked me to make him one. I put together a pinwheel design out of scraps and my love went into every stitch. Tim loved it and would use it as a comforter. His friends describe him wearing it like a cloak or snuggled under it on the sofa.

"Since his death I have made a series of quilts in Tim's memory for family members while we, as a family, have committed to do everything we can to improve services and raise awareness of mental health, which is why we have thrown ourselves into the Canada fundraising."

The existing quilt up for raffle uses the same interlocking pinwheel design as a tribute to Tim, which represents the shared impact of mental ill health on individuals, their families and friends. One in four of each of the pinwheels has some black in it as a reminder that one in four people will experience mental health issues, while one features bright colours to demonstrate how one in a hundred will experience a psychotic episode.

Tim's mum spent around six weeks making the quilt, and is happy to produce something similar for someone else in return for their large donation or sponsorship for the trip.

"The quilts are made from shirting and carry the message that mental health does not discriminate and can affect any of us of any age, gender, culture or background," added Tim's mum. "As a society, we all need to value and support mental health services.

"By offering people the chance to commission a quilt, we hope to do something in Tim's memory to help this dedicated group of young people to get to Canada so that they can get their voices heard and help improve services here in the future.

"It's a huge amount of money to raise, and they need everyone's help. They have all had difficulties in their lives and some have never travelled or presented at a conference. As such, their determination to share their views and bring back ideas to our region is truly inspirational."

So far, the Youth Council, with the help of their families and friends, have arranged quiz nights, cream teas, car washes, cake sales and sponsored walks, have launched a charity single and have received generous donations from health workers union Unison of £5,000, local Lions groups and other companies.

If they hit their target, they will present a dynamic video explaining their experiences of mental ill health, what they get from working with the Youth Council, and what they feel it has achieved, as well as personally addressing delegates from across the globe during the conference.

The raffle for the existing quilt will be drawn on August 8. Bidding to commission your own quilt starts from today and closes on September 10. The quilt will then be made after that date.

Tickets and bids are available via Emma Corlett, NSFT's young people participation lead, via emma.corlett@nsft.nhs.uk  

To make a direct donation to the fundraising campaign, please visit: mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/nsftyouthmentalhealth