A CLOSE-KNIT community has rallied together to raise more than £2,000 for the families of teenagers who died in the River Wear.
Residents of Barmston clubbed together in a bid to collect as much money as possible for the relatives of Chloe Fowler, 14, and Tonibeth Purvis, 15, who drowned on Tuesday, July 23.
Chloe, an Oxclose Academy pupil, jumped in the river, near Fatfield, Washington, to cool off, before getting into trouble.
Former Washington School pupil Tonibeth went in to try to help her friend, but also got into difficulty in the water.
Despite a massive rescue operation, their bodies were found hours later.
Carol Hall and Anne McIlduff, of NE38 Sports Bar, Barmston, led the fund-raising in memory of the teens, who have been described as “always smiling”.
“We have kids ourselves, so it was a cause close to our hearts,” said Carol, a barmaid.
“Then we heard it was Tonibeth from Barmston and it was just heartbreaking.
“We know Tonibeth’s family, because they come into the bar, but we wanted to raise money for both girls’ families.
“Anne was at work when some of Tonibeth’s relatives came in after the search for them had taken place, and she said it was heartbreaking to watch them.” Carol and Anne organised a series of activities, including balloon releases, raffles and a family disco to raise the money, to help them pay for the funerals and anything else they need.
Irene McLellan, who runs the karaoke at NE38 Sports Bar, also contributed to the fund by holding a charity karaoke night at The Black Bush pub, which added £438 to the total.
Carol said people have been overwhelmingly generous.
“We have had a fantastic response from people,” she said.
“I was shocked when we counted the money and saw how much we had raised. Everyone has been amazing.”
The women will give the money to the families this week.
Residents of Shiney Row also raised money for Chloe’s family last week during a walk called Chloe Fowler’s Journey Home.
Walkers and businesses made £1,251 for the family, while the Fowlers’ neighbours in Hunter Street are holding a coffee morning in aid of them.
Youngster Jasmine Nichols contributed £112 towards the fund, again raised to help the family, including Chloe’s mum and dad, and seven siblings, to pay for her funeral which took place on Thursday.