Annabel Hayter. How do I even begin to tell you about this remarkable lady! How about I just tell you about how I know Annabel and you can work out for yourself why I am saying she is remarkable?! ...
I first met Annabel, and her husband George, a number of years ago at a Muscular Dystrophy UK Spirit of Christmas Carol Service at the Gloucester Cathedral. It was a Q&A really of them trying to find out as much about me as they could in the 20 minutes we had talking before the service itself began where they learnt more about me when I made a speech.
The following year (Christmas 2015) I was at the reception for the same event, as it’s an annual thing, but no George. I learnt that he had passed away. Annabel told me that I had made quite an impression with him though and that she wanted to support me within my sport.
Annabel explained that in the Spring of 2016 the Hayter family were holding quite an event at the Gloucester Cathedral; a memorial for George. She went on to tell me that the money raised from the event would be donated to my Road to Rio and she also donated herself to ensure that my mum and brother could join me in Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Paralympics which I was training for.
By the time the memorial came around it was unknown as to whether I was going to end up having surgery on my shoulder which would rule me out of the games that year. But sadly that is what happened; I ended up having my shoulder pretty much reconstructed in the May last year meaning my nightmare became a reality and I wasn’t going to be wearing the Paralympics GB kit.
I offered the money Annabel had donated back to go to another cause of her choice but she told me to keep hold of it for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics because she wouldn’t be here then to support me emotionally or financially. Because what I haven’t said in all this is that during the time I knew Annabel she was diagnosed with cancer!
The Amazing Annabel never gave up though. She kept going and doing everything she could right up until 30th August 2017 when she joined George like I said. I attended her funeral yesterday (19th September). It was very surreal.
On 30th August I went to send Annabel an email to say the night before I had presented the sport on Points West and to ask if myself and my mum could go and visit her the following monday. As I opened my emails I had received one from her email address, I thought maybe she had seen my TV piece anyway. But no. It was an email from her daughter Victoria telling me that Annabel had passed away that morning. I was just too late!
I was never, and will never, be able to thank her enough for what she has given me. She has given me more than a financial donation. She has given me the opportunity of a lifetime; the opportunity to continue reporting and presenting with the BBC as well as train for the Toyko 2020 Paralympics! I can finance myself.
Now I know that as time goes by I will need to start looking for sponsorship but Annabel has given me the head start I need to do all I have ever wanted too and if/when I make the 2020 games I will have achieved everything I want before the age of 25! Leaving me with so much more of my life left to do so many more things.
I realised at her funeral that this is what she does. She made everyone else’s life complete and in return she was rewarded by making these things happen. Being surrounded by a big and close family would have completed her life too I am sure.
But the other message in this is that you can’t delay things. Don’t think to yourself I will send that email in a bit or I will call them back later. Because you never know when it’s too late. I just take peace in the fact that Annabel will be with me all the way to Tokyo and back and if/when I win a medal there. It’s in her memory and for her. I will continue her legacy!