FAMILY: Tony Sealey with his daughter Ashleigh shortly before her death in April 2010
A FAMILY who lost their gifted daughter in the prime of her life have refused to let grief overwhelm them. Instead, they have focused on supporting young people with their studies thanks to memorial scholarships they have launched in their daughter’s name.
Talented trainee solicitor Ashleigh Sealey died at the age of 23 in April 2010 after developing complications from juvenile arthritis, a painful condition she had endured since childhood.
Two years ago, her parents Audrey and Tony Sealey, OBE, a well known Birmingham businessman, launched the Ashley Merelle Sealey Memorial Trust in memory of their beloved daughter.
Last year, seven young people, all working and studying hard, were awarded educational bursaries totalling more than £4,000 to help them achieve their dreams.
They received their bursaries in the form of books and equipment such as laptops to help with their studies, rather than cash.
This year the Trust has been overwhelmed with applications, but Barbados-born Tony said he was hopeful that at least 10 students could be supported once applicants had been chosen.
Tony and Audrey organised the third annual trust dinner, hosted by G-Man at The Hawthorns, the home of West Bromwich Albion Football Club, where guests were entertained by some of the region’s most talented youngsters.
Special guests included Guy Hewitt, High Commissioner for Barbados in the UK, who praised Bajans such as Tony for having given so much to both the UK and Barbados.
Tony spoke movingly of how he remembered having to lift Ashleigh to her exam desk in order for her to sit her law finals. He said her drive and ambition despite her illness was humbling.
Ashleigh went on to become a trainee with leading Birmingham law firm McGrath & Co, where she refused to let her debilitating condition stop her from working. Tragically, she was in the office literally a day before she died because she loved her work so much.
He said one of Ashleigh’s favourite sayings was ‘always begin with the end in mind’ which personified his daughter because she always looked to the future. She knew she wanted to be a lawyer right from studying for her GCSEs.
Tony said: “When you have young people, like Ashleigh, with so much drive and ambition you will do everything in your power to support them. For me, nothing is more important. As long as I have breath I will make sure this organisation supports as many young people as it can.”
Two winners from last year’s event – Khari Douglas and Kandace Saunders told guests of how the bursaries had helped them with their studies.
Kandace explained how she was studying fashion and image making at the University of Salford, while Khari said he was in his final year of an economics degree at the University of Birmingham. He said the bursary had helped him to pay for an intensive Chinese course.
Guests heard how other winners such as Shanell Parker, Shanice Mears and Ophelia-Veronica Mae Charles, had also been able to pursue their career dreams thanks to the bursary help they received.
A fashion show, which has now become a tradition of the annual event, was the highlight of the evening. Other young entertainers included One Nation Dance Explosion, dancer Xoleswei and singers Aliya and Elle Chante.