When Garth Stalford sadly passed away, the Castlerock community rallied to raise money in his name and share their precious memories of him.

By Maibh Shiels

Castlerock sisters Emma Henderson and Kirsty Nutt are making sure the memory of their late brother Garth Stalford will live on.

Along with Garth’s widow Rachel, the ladies held a fundraiser in his memory after he sadly passed away in March of this year.

The Stalford family from Castlerock sadly lost Garth to a heart attack when he was just age 39 years old, and although they are still struggling to come to terms with his death, the two sisters decided they would keep his memory alive by taking part in a sponsored walk for two worthy causes in his name.

Emma, age 41, shares how the fundraiser first got started, the ways Garth was remembered on the day, and what it means to be able to give funds to charities that will make such a difference.

She shares the painful story of her brother’s passing.

She says: “My brother had a heart attack in March this year. His colleague tried to resuscitate him, and the ambulance took him to the hospital, but he passed away the next day.”

She says the family’s grieving has been helped by holding the fundraiser in his name.

“My sister Kirsty was born with only one eye, and before my brother passed away, she wanted to do a sponsored walk for Angel Eyes NI, and that was supposed to be happening in May.

“My brother had said to Kirsty he would be free to take part in that, but then when he passed away from a heart attack, we said we would do the walk for both Angel Eyes NI and NI Chest, Heart and Stroke.”

The fundraiser went ahead in September, with a sponsored walk up and down Castlerock beach, and Emma says the whole day was spent remembering Garth and raising money in many different ways.

“After the walk we went to the beer garden in Bertha’s Bar to meet everyone for tea and coffee and then in the evening there was live music from Hayley Currie and later on from my brother’s friend Ashley McCurdy.

“The beer garden was absolutely packed, and everybody was having such a good time. It was a great night where everyone was sharing stories about Garth, and we sent a book around where people could write their memories about him.

“We went to Bertha’s because that was his local place, where he liked to go, and we wanted to do it somewhere that reminded everyone of him.”

She shares that the fundraising was continues at Bertha’s, and that the money and items generously donated by the community made the family emotional to see.

“We had a raffle, and so many people and businesses in the community donated prizes. The donations kept on coming, and it was actually overwhelming for us as his family to realise just how much he was thought of by the people here.

“It meant so much to us, and my mum and dad were so touched because they didn’t expect so many donations,” says Garth’s sister, and adds that the current total is £4,300 raised for both charities.

Emma says it wasn’t just the support for the fundraising that brought tears to her eyes, but the support from those Garth was loved by in showing up for the fundraiser in his memory.

“So many people showed up. There were some people who he knew from years ago who he hadn’t been in touch with, but they still turned up to the walk.

“All his friends came to support it and it was nice to see them again. It was very emotional, but it meant so much to see everybody come together for him.

“It was very heart-warming. There were tears, but there was laughter, too, and everyone was sharing stories of Garth and imagining what he’d be getting up to if he was there, because he liked a few beers and loved music.”

She shares some of her memories of her brother and why he was cared for so deeply by the local community.

“He was very shy, but if you were his friend, you were his friend for life. And he was very quiet, but he could talk to you for hours about music. He loved all sorts of music and going to gigs.

“Nobody would ever dress the same as him, but he was never worried about what anybody thought. I still remember a pair of tartan trousers he wore once!”

Emma laughs as she fondly remembers her brother, and it’s easy to see why Garth was so loved by family and friends.

She shares that he was a part of the local community, too, saying he rescued animals from shelters with his wife Rachel, and worked at Dunluce Castle.

“He loved the history of Dunluce Castle. It was probably his favourite job, and Dunluce Castle are putting a bench in the castle in his memory, which means a lot,” she shares, and it’s easy to see Garth will always be remembered by his friends, family, and community.

Emma says this might not be the last time the family fundraise in Garth’s name, either. “We might do something like this again in a couple of years in his memory.”

She adds that it is about raising awareness, too, and encourages anyone who has chest pain to see a doctor straight away.

Emma also says her sister Kirsty might do a lot more for Angel Eyes NI, whether that be raising funds for the work they do or raising awareness of what she went through, by speaking to other families about what she went through.

Emma shares why her sister wanted to fundraise for them in the first place, “When Kirsty was born there weren’t a lot of charities to help children with eyesight issues.

“Angel Eyes NI is for families and children, to give them support and educate them, and I think it would have helped Kirsty to have that growing up, so that is why she wanted to fundraise for them.

“They have also asked her to talk to other families about her experience, and she said she might do that when she feels ready for it.”

So, this family is far from finished its fundraising, and Emma says donations are still being given for the walk in Garth’s memory, and thanks all those who have donated so far.

“As a family, it meant so much to us to have that support. I can’t thank the local community and businesses enough for their generosity. I just want to say thank you.”

If you want to help the family’s fundraising, donate to NI Chest, Heart and Stroke or Angel Eyes NI today, and help Garth’s legacy live on.

Garth was a brother, son, husband, friend, brother-in-law and uncle cared for by so many, and the fundraiser shows that he will not be forgotten, as his memory will live on in those who loved him.

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