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A special daughter’s legacy

A FATHER'S LOVE: Tony Sealey at a dinner with his daughter Ashleigh

IT’S A nightmare every parent prays they will never have to go through – businessman Tony Sealey is still struggling to make sense of losing his beloved 23-year-old daughter four years ago.

But those long four years have made the Sealey family realise they want to help other young people in the prime of their lives, as their daughter Ashleigh once was, by setting up their own charity in her name.

The Ashley Merelle Sealey Memorial Trust is being officially launched on April 19 at West Bromwich Albion Football Club by her parents Tony and Audrey. It is “dedicated to inspiring, encouraging and supporting young people to realise their true potential.”

As a trainee solicitor with leading Birmingham firm McGrath & Co, Ashleigh was well on her way to realising her true potential, despite battling with juvenile arthritis for more than half of her young life.

TRAGICALLY

She bravely refused to let her illness defeat her dreams, but tragically Ashleigh contracted an airborne virus which took her life within hours after being admitted to Birmingham’s City Hospital on April 20, 2010.

“I doubt as a family we will ever come to terms with her leaving us at such a young age because she had so much to live for,” said her heartbroken dad Tony, a leading businessman, who was awarded an OBE for his services to the business community in 2007.

“But through this trust we want to remember Ashleigh in the most positive way – for her ambition, commitment, passion, fun personality and her willingness always to help others.

“The aim is two fold: to support young people studying at university through offering an annual bursary to between ten and 20 students. It will be given, not in the form of cash, but books and helpful equipment such as laptops.

“We remember when Ashleigh was studying law, her books were so expensive.

“The second aim of the trust is to highlight juvenile arthritis as a disease – at first it was a huge challenge for Ashleigh to be diagnosed as it was initially thought to be perhaps sickle cell or lupus. She went through so many tests.”

Sealey, who runs McDonald’s restaurant in Perry Barr, added: “Ashleigh was such a positive image of what a young person should be, yet she was around many young people who had lost their way. Some of her peers would come to her for advice – she was a sounding board.

“Right from doing her GCSEs she knew she wanted to study law because she wanted to help others. We didn’t push her; she was very focused. One of her favourite sayings was ‘always begin with the end in mind.’ That was Ashleigh, always looking to the future despite her condition.

“She was very lucky in having an excellent rheumatology consultant in Dr David Carruthers with whom she developed a special relationship. He cared for her throughout her schooldays”

Ashleigh’s mentor at McGrath & Co, respected Birmingham solicitor Errol Robinson, said: “Ashleigh was one of the brightest, most able and conscientious trainees that I had seen in many years. She was clearly a loss to the legal profession and the wider community.

“I remember the day before she died, she was in the office looking at files to work on until I had to order her to go home. She was always so determined, never wanting to let her condition get the better of her.”

Ashleigh’s dad added: “We never thought we would lose Ashleigh so quickly, but we have to thank God for the wonderful 23 years we had with her and that is what we want to celebrate.”

For details about the charity launch on April 19 contact Tony Sealey on 07831 465 459 or Angie on 07939 562 580 or email:myrils@aol.com.

The evening includes a four course meal, a rum punch reception and entertainment.

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