Since the tragic death of a nine-year-old Exeter boy who died just 48 hours after coming down with the flu his family have been unable to bring themselves to celebrate Christmas, but are planning to mark it in a different way this year.
Next January will mark the third anniversary of the death of Coby Simons who died of pneumonia on January 24, 2018.
Coby was a Year 5 pupil at St Martin’s C of E Primary and Nursery School in Cranbrook, and was rarely ill.
To make sure his death was not in vain, his parents Louise Simons and Jamie Chrichard launched #ThumbsUpForCoby, a campaign to urge parents to vaccinate their children – the single best way of protecting against the potentially deadly virus.
They have continued to support flu vaccination campaign in the region since, but this year have decided to give something back to local charity Balloons which provided vital support to Coby’s friends following his sudden death.
On November 1, a Christmas tree will be erected inside the Pinhoe Hoard pub in Exeter where Coby’s wake was held.
People are asked to put a tag on the tree to either pledge to buy a present for the local children being supported by the bereavement charity and place it under unwrapped the tree, or write a tag stating how much money they would like to donate for a present which Coby’s family will then use to buy a present.
Donations can be received up until December 15 when they will be delivered to balloons. On the same day, Louise will be having her hair cut to donate to the Little Princess Trust which provides real hair wigs to children and young people with hair loss.
Louise said: “We don’t do Christmas any more since Coby passed away, but I do have a Christmas tree that is up all year at home because it has on it things people made for Coby when a competition was launched to find who could make the nicest Christmas direction for it.
“Balloons help children aged 16 and under and they really helped children at Coby’s school so we wanted to do something to give something back to them. We are asking for presents to be unwrapped so that we can make sure it is age appropriate for the child it will be given to.”
Balloons supports bereaved children and young people in Exeter, Mid and East Devon when someone significant in their lives dies. It works alongside their families and the professionals who care for them to further enhance the support they receive.
Louise and Jamie are continuing to urge parents to make sure their children get the flu vaccination this year, particularly because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Louise said: “This year people should especially get vaccinated because it is absolutely crucial for all ages.
“Coby was strong and hardly ever poorly. He was kind and bright and had lots of friends at school, but we have lost our baby boy and it hurts every single day.
“Please don’t put your children at risk. Make sure they have the flu vaccination and help us spread this message far and wide.”