Her mum said looking forward to the awards night gave Emily something positive to focus on as the whole family, including dad David and little sister Luciana (3), struggled with their emotions coming up to the first anniversary of Thomas’ death a couple of weeks ago.
And Jacqueline added she couldn’t be any prouder of her little daughter, who she described as an inspiration.
She also recalled how on the night they lost Thomas, she and Emily were returning home from an event at their primary school and came across the accident.
“It’s like Emily has grown up overnight,” she explained. “We came across the accident, so there was no such thing as breaking it to her gently.
“She saw the chaos. As we arrived home from a movie night at school, we came across the ambulance and police.
“Thomas had decided not to go to the movie night because he preferred to be outdoors. It was a beautiful evening, so he stayed at home with his daddy.
“(Seeing the accident) traumatised me, so at eight years of age it must have been a nightmare for Emily.
“Even the wake and funeral were so different to normal. We had so many people of all ages in floods of tears. I am sure it was scary for her.
“Fundraising was her way of coping. She called it her strategy. Even now Davey and I are still trying to function, but she is such a wee inspiration.
“Thomas and her loved to bake buns, and she asked in school if she could have a bun sale for the children, then she asked if the mummies and daddies could come, and in the end it became a coffee morning.
“She made the posters herself and the thankyou cards and set up the room in the school. She was a real wee busy bee.
“She made a speech at the coffee morning saying that Thomas had his wish every day when he came home and played outside, which was something he loved to do, and she wanted to help make wishes come true for sick children.
“The crowd that came and supported her was unbelievable for a small country area.”
The Trek for Thomas was also organised by Emily, and she even approached businesses to help sponsor food and snacks.
More than 1,000 people braved the cold on New Year’s Eve to follow one of three walks, and Emily raised nearly £14,000.
Her mum said: “We were gobsmacked by the support. People just kept coming. It was amazing. So many people contacted us to say they wanted to volunteer and help out.
“Emily even opened her own money box and put all the money she got for her birthday and Christmas together and donated it.
“It has been so hard for her, even going back to school. We were in pieces and she had to walk through those school gates without Thomas and see all his wee friends running around the playground and he wasn’t there. That was really hard for her.
“She has now started writing a wee book that some day she would like to get published on how to keep going and find courage when things are tough. She is so brave.”
While the family still struggles to get on with life without Thomas, Jacqueline said he was still very much alive in their home, which is decorated with his drawings and artwork.
They also have a memory jar in which they each write down memories of happy times with Thomas and then sit around the table together and share them.
Jacqueline said they would never get over his loss. “He was such a happy wee boy,” she added.
“Very sunny, witty and full of fun. Everyone who met him loved him straight away.
“Luciana was only two when he died, but even she still asks when ‘Toba’, as she called him, is coming home. She wants to go to the angel shop and buy wings and go and get him in heaven.”
For a few hours at least the family were able to celebrate and give Emily a night to remember at the ceremony.
“The Spirit of Northern Ireland Award gave Emily something positive to focus on,” Jacqueline said.
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