Lantern parade to be in held in Milton Keynes in remembrance of hundreds who lost their lives to Covid

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The parade will be held on Wednesday June 23

An charity founder who set up a national network of support groups for anyone who has experienced loss and grief during the pandemic is to host a candlelit memorial parade in Milton Keynes

The event is organised by Gulliver's theme park worker Debbie Lewis and is open to anybody who has lost at loved one to Covid.

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Debbie, who is 51, founded Covid19 Families UK after losing her father to the disease in 2020 and her mother to cancer just five months earlier.

Debbie Lewis (right) with Sue Conway, resort manager at Gulliver’s LandDebbie Lewis (right) with Sue Conway, resort manager at Gulliver’s Land
Debbie Lewis (right) with Sue Conway, resort manager at Gulliver’s Land

The volunteer community group now has 37 regional groups across the UK with more than 3,700 members.

Debbie is now set to hold what is thought to be the first public memorial event to take place in the UK.

Candleight4covid will see a socially distanced lantern parade starting at 7pm from Intu Milton Keynes and will walk on foot the short distance to the Parks Trust Venue of Milton Keynes Rose. Anyone wishing to participate in the parade must apply as this part of the event is numbers restricted and by invitation only.

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At 8pm a ceremony, which is open to the public, with live music and speeches from dignitaries will take place at MK Rose. This is a free event and social distancing and the rule of six must be adhered to.

There will also be an opportunity for the bereaved to attach messages for their loved ones to the dedicated Covid-19 memorial post, culminating in the lighting of a yellow laser beam representing the love for all those so sadly lost.

Debbie said: "I set up the support group because there was so much confusion around funerals and death certificates that the idea was to pass information on to others who needed it.

“The idea grew rapidly and we now have a network of 3,700 members who can connect to other bereaved in their area, meet up and communicate through their grieving, and we can signpost them if they’re struggling to professional support.

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“I am a people person and my biggest hope for the group is to become a registered charity. There are so many friends and family members struggling with grief with no social support or friends to see them due to restrictions.

“This memorial is so important to say goodbye. It is a non-religious event and we welcome all communities and faiths to join us and unite in remembering lives lost and showing support to the bereaved

Debbie, who worked in mental health and retirement care for more than 17 years, has been part of the team at Gulliver’s Land for nine years. Gulliver’s Theme Park Resorts is pledging £2,000 towards the event.

Aidan Hall, guest experience manager at Gulliver’s Land, said: “We are truly moved to see the inspiring work Debbie has done to create such an important support network for those impacted by the pandemic. Before Covid, Debbie was a park ranger at Gulliver’s Land and was always chatting to customers - she is a true guiding light for those in need.

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He added: “This candlelit memorial is a wonderful and significant event for Milton Keynes and we will be supporting Debbie every step of the way.”

More information about Covid19 Families UK can be found through the website here.

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