THREE Fylde coast Olympic torchbearers who have overcome family tragedy today told their loved ones: “We did it for you.”
Teenager Katie Barker, whose mum died just days before her GCSE exams last year, Ryan Thornton – the brother of fallen Blackpool soldier Gunner Lee Thornton – and founder of resort charity Donna’s Dream House, Len Curtis, made the poignant tributes as they proudly carried their beacons this weekend.
Katie Barker, 17, was left devastated after the sudden death of her mum, Linda, from a brain haemorrhage just three days before her GCSE exams.
Despite struggling to come to terms with her loss, the student from Kirkham’s Carr Hill High School managed to complete her exams and pass them all.
Katie, of Stanagate, Clifton, near Kirkham, said: “I was so shocked when I was picked to be a torchbearer.
“It was an amazing day – I did it for mum, I dedicated it to her. It was because of her I was doing it.”
“It’s been tough but you have to get on with it. Mum wouldn’t want us moping around.”
Katie’s mum, died aged just 52 in May last year.
The teenager was nominated to be a torchbearer by her school friends Hannah McCormick, Becky French and Peggy Bowen-Jones who said she had been an “inspiration” to them by “holding her family together” following the tragedy.
Katie, who has six brothers and a sister, carried the beacon for 300m in Heywood near Rochdale on Saturday afternoon.
The sporty sixth form student, who teaches hockey to younger pupils, added: “It was really good.
“Everyone was cheering and waving.
“My Dad was really proud and I think my mum would have been too.
“I was thinking about her as I carried it – she brought the sun out.
“It was a really good day for us all – something for us to look forward to and something we can always remember.”
Another young Fylde coast torchbearer was also chosen because of the admirable way he has coped following his brother’s tragic death.
Ryan Thornton was just 19 when his older brother Lee was killed in Iraq.
Gunner Lee Thornton, 22, from Marton, was serving with the Royal Artillery when he was shot while out on patrol.
The war hero’s tragic death was a devastating loss for his family – but selfless Ryan has used his experiences to help others.
The 25-year-old is one of the founding members of the SSAFA Forces Help Support Group for Bereaved Siblings.
He carried the beacon through Warton on Saturday.
Ryan said: “When my brother died in Iraq I didn’t speak to anyone about it. But this group helped me build my confidence. We meet up and talk about what we have been through.”
Torchbearer Len Curtis enjoyed his moment to shine on Saturday after being nominated to carry the flame for his dedicated charity work.
The 64-year-old co-founded Donna’s Dream House to give magical holidays to terminally ill children in memory of his daughter, Donna.
Len, who carried the torch along King Edward Avenue and the Inner Promenade in Lytham, said: “It was such an emotional day.
“It was a tremendous honour. The highlight was when I got to the end and saw all my family there letting balloons off for Donna. It was so lovely.
“It is something so unique in our lifetime. I dedicated it to Donna and all the terminally ill children who aren’t with us now and for those who will sadly suffer in the future.”