Mum of murdered soldier Lee Rigby launches charity in Wales
IT’S been nine heart-breaking years since soldier Lee Rigby was brutally murdered by extremists on the streets of London, in a crime that shook the world.
But today his brave mum Lyn Rigby shared hope amid tragedy as she launched her first holiday sanctuary for bereaved military families and traumatised veterans.
Nestled on the beautiful Welsh coastline, Lyn achieved a dream come true as she opened her first caravan in Aberystwyth.
The bolthole will offer comfort to grieving loved ones like herself when life becomes too much to bear.
The launch of Lee Rigby Retreat came on the 9th anniversary of Fusilier Lee’s death (May 22) and gave Lyn and her family a rare cause to rejoice.
She said: “There have been some very dark days indeed since Lee was taken from us, but the launch of the caravan is something to celebrate.
“Not only does it mean we can help military families and veterans when they need support most, it also means we can celebrate Lee always.
“Everything we do as a family is about keeping his memory alive and doing good in his name.
“It would break my heart all over again if Lee and his life were forgotten.
“This is our way of ensuring Lee’s legacy is a force for good.”
Lyn bought the caravan as part of the charity she founded in her son’s name, the Lee Rigby Foundation.
She and her family and a loyal group of supporters spent the winter lovingly refurbishing and decorating the large holiday home.
She has now welcomed her first family to the retreat and bookings are filling up fast for the summer.
She added: “I feel so passionate about this project.
“In the early, raw days of my grief, I was broken into a million pieces.
“When I hit my lowest point, I found myself lying beside Lee’s grave.
“It was a freezing cold, bleak winter’s night with wind and rain crashing round me, but all I could feel was the pain of losing Lee.
“I wanted to be near him and was so distressed that he was lying in a cold wet grave all by himself.
“If I could have climbed in that grave that night to be with him, I would have.
“It was the most desolate and wretched feeling ever.
“I’ll never forget that night and as I grew a little stronger, I knew I wanted to provide some help for loved ones who experience similar grief.
“There was nowhere for me to run to when I hit rock bottom. I was determined to change that for others.
“It fills me with great pride to see families arriving here.
“It’s a chance for them to take stock and shut the world out, even if only for a short time.
“For others, it’s a chance to bring their families away on an affordable holiday to give everyone a break from the relentless journey of grief that so many face.
“Bereavement never takes a holiday. I hope this wonderful respite centre offers some comfort to those who need it most.”
The kind-hearted seaside community of Aberystwyth in mid Wales has already taken Lyn and her cause to their hearts, supporting her every step of the way.
Launching the caravan, local mayor Alun Williams said: “When Lee was murdered nine years ago, his family responded in the best possible way by creating the Lee Rigby Foundation to help others.
“This respite sanctuary for families in similar situations shows Aberystwyth at its best to help people in serious adversity and I’m proud to open the retreat.”
During a special launch last week, Lyn also had the support of serving military soldiers from the Royal Welsh as well as veterans from Lee’s beloved Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.
Lyn, Ian and their four daughters have also had outstanding support from Ian and Angela Berrey who own the Aberystwyth Holiday Village where the caravan is based.
They have guided them step by step, helping them buy their caravan and providing constant support for the family.
Ian Berrey said: “We think Lyn and her family are amazing in what they are doing and will do anything we can to help them.
“Like most people, we were shocked at Lee’s murder but to see this family helping others is extraordinary. They deserve all the support they can get.”
The caravan is the first of several that Lyn aims to open around the UK. The foundation is working tirelessly to open more in the north, east, south, and west of Great Britain.
“The aim is that families never have to travel too far from home to get away for a break,” Lyn said.
“Sometimes you need to remove yourself from your life, your home situation, to grasp a bit of perspective and strength.
“We can’t make people’s hurt go away. Nothing will ever do that. But we can offer a safe breathing space to regroup and hide away to recover from the pain that is always with us. It’s a small slither of light in the darkness.
“This project has without doubt saved me. My goal is to help others who are suffering, and it keeps me connected to Lee.
“He would be so proud to see this. He was one of the kindest people you could meet and always the first to offer a helping hand to those in need. It’s very fitting that his legacy is carrying on his kindness.
“There were times I thought I would never see this day. It’s been a rocky road and a long hard slog, but it’s been worth every setback and delay.
“It brings my family so much pride and joy to say that this is in Lee’s name.
“He was a larger-than-life character who had so much love to give.
“He was the opposite of the evil that took him from us.
“He was so much fun and louder than you could ever imagine. His heart was filled with love for those around him.
“When he was murdered, he was living his very best life.
“Just 24 hours before he died, he had been working at a wedding fair as part of a recruitment drive with his army troop.
“A male model had dropped out of the bridal fashion show and Lee was roped in to take his place.
“The photos of him at that event were the last ever taken of him and they took my breath away.
“He had never looked more handsome, vital, or happy.
“He had an Army career he loved, a fiancée he was besotted with and a son he adored. He loved nothing more than being surrounded by his family, me, his dad Ian, and his four doting sisters.
“My driving force is to make sure Lee is never forgotten and that we serve his legacy proud.
“He is loved and missed every day still.
“I’m so proud of the young man he grew into which makes it even more tragic that his young life was cut so short.”
Lee was butchered in the street by two Muslim extremists in Woolwich in 2013. He was walking home to his barracks in broad daylight when his killers struck.
Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale were both sentenced to life for the savage killing which shocked the world. Adebolajo received a whole life tariff meaning he will die in prison. Adebowale received a 45-year tariff meaning he can’t apply for parole before then.
Lyn said: “Lee wasn’t some kind of saint. On the contrary, he was always at the heart of the most mischief and that’s why people loved him.
“Once met, he was never forgotten. He was never without a smile on his face, and I want people to know who he was.”
Now Lyn is looking forward to welcoming those in need to her seaside sanctuary.
She said: “Lee is at the heart of everything we do.
“I wish with all my might I could bring him back to us but sadly that’s impossible.
“I owe it to my beautiful son to make sure he’s never forgotten.”
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