Heartbroken friends and family remember Sunderland personal trainer Natalie Riddell after her death aged 35
The best friend of a much-loved Sunderland woman who died young is hoping to create a lasting legacy in her memory.
Natalie Riddell – affectionately known as ‘Mac’ by her friends, family and clients - was a popular fitness instructor, whose life was cut short when she died following a fall in September last year.
Now Natalie’s best friend, Sarah Callaghan, is hoping to raise £2,850 to fund a memorial bench that will provide a permanent place for her friends, family and all those whose lives she touched, to visit and remember her.
SkinnyPigs instructor Natalie was just 35 when she died, leaving her friends and clients devastated.
Sarah hopes creating a place people can quietly reflect on Natalie’s life will allow people to mourn her friend whose funeral and wake were restricted due to the pandemic: “Natalie meant so much to so many people,” she said.
"When she tragically left this world for a better place, many of us began to understand the true meaning of heartbreak. Many of her friends and family have talked about wanting to remember her forever.
"This would be a great opportunity for all who knew Natalie to have a memorial place to visit when they feel they need to talk to her or to be close to her, or to do their thing to remember her in their way.
“Ideally, we’d have liked to organise a charity event to raise money to secure a memorial bench at Mac’s beloved seafront. However, covid has made that really difficult.
"So, in the meantime, as there is a long waiting list for memorial benches, we are trying to raise the money needed for this so that we can join the list.”
Sarah has launched a Gofundme Page, which raised more than £1,000 within hours of being set up.
“So many people loved Mac,” she said.
"When she died, hundreds of friends reached out to me and her friends to share their memories of her. We hope that – by creating a permanent place for people to sit and remember her – we can help everyone celebrate the fantastic memories they made with her.”
Sarah, who had been friends with Natalie from childhood, hopes that – if she is able to raise the amount needed to fund the bench - she can host a ‘celebration of life’ party for friends and family to give them the chance to remember Natalie together, and give their beloved Mac the send-off they were unable to, due to tight covid restrictions at the time.
“Natalie was the life and soul of the party, and we have so many amazing memories of times spent with her,” said Sarah.
"We’d love to raise enough to fund this bench and to bring all of those who loved her together to raise a glass and celebrate her life.
"She meant so much to so many, so it would be lovely to have a place by the sea to remember all the great memories we packed into her short life.”
To make a donation to Sarah’s fundraising campaign in memory of Natalie, visit: https://www.gofundme.com/f/natalie-macs-memorial-bench?utm_campaign