Sunday 25 August 2019

Dedicated swim teacher with just one year to live has final wishes granted

Willie Turner and his fiancée Lyndsey Browne
Willie Turner and his fiancée Lyndsey Browne

Stephanie Bell

A swimming teacher who was given just 12 to 18 months to live has had his final wishes granted - to marry the love of his life and to take his children abroad on their first, and what could be their last, holiday abroad as a family.

It was a wedding that just 24 hours ago Willie Turner and Lyndsey Browne could only dream of, but which today is a reality thanks to a big-hearted community.

In an astonishing outpouring of love towards the couple, people responded to a story on the Belfast Telegraph about Willie's last wishes by donating everything needed for the perfect wedding.

Yesterday, the couple had spoken of their gratitude after friends set up a Facebook campaign to try and raise money for a wedding and holiday with their children after Willie

Willie was diagnosed with terminal cancer in August.

The popular swimming teacher was given just 12 to 18 months to live.

The couple have two boys, Bobby (17 months) and Freddie (six months), and Willie has also been a wonderful father to Lyndsey's two boys by a previous marriage, Luke (11) and Jake (10). He also has a 12-year-old daughter of his own, named Karson (12).

Within hours of the story going to press, a new Facebook page had been set up - William Turner and Lyndsey Browne Wedding Day - calling for people to help make Willie's bucket list dream come true.

There was an immediate response, with dozens of businesses and individuals offering their services.

Last night, the couple had been given everything to make the perfect wedding day possible, from a wedding planner to wedding dresses, bridesmaid's dresses and flowers, make-up and hairdressing for the bride, cars, a DJ, a band to play at their wedding and even a face painter to amuse the children at the reception.

As people were showing their kindness, Lyndsey spent an anxious day by Willie's bedside in hospital where he was admitted for new tests.

However, she was overwhelmed by the wonderful reaction from the public. "There is so much kindness out there and so many people have donated something that I feel really humbled that people would go to such lengths for us," she said.

"I had just thought we would have a simple wedding but now, thanks to everyone's generosity, we can have a wedding we could only have dreamed of. It will allow me to give Willie a special day and to send him off as happy as I can."

Mandy Baxter, from Portadown, who is manager of the Marie Curie Cancer shop in Dungannon, was also stunned by the reaction when she set up the Facebook page.

Mandy said: "I lost a close friend recently and felt so helpless, and after I read the story I was so touched I just wanted to do something, an act of kindness.

"I have been absolutely amazed by how generous people have been and how much they want to help. It is amazing and hopefully Lyndsey and Willie will now get the special day they deserve."

Grateful parents whose children were taught to swim by Willie have also set up a Facebook fundraising campaign to help grant his final wishes.

Willie, who worked as a self-employed swimming instructor at Ballinderry Swimming School for 10 years, had to give up the job he loved after his diagnosis.

Yesterday, Michael Kinsella, a parent who got to know Willie when he taught his son to swim, revealed other families had also launched an appeal fund for the family on Facebook and Justgiving.

Michael said: "I watched him with the children for two years and saw someone who was totally dedicated to the children in that pool.

"He gave each of them 100pc and that never wavered. He was totally focused on each child and is one of the best teachers I have ever seen.

"As parents, we just wanted to do something to help, and we have set up the fund on Facebook which we hope people will support.

"We have around £700 and our target is £5,000, so whatever people can do to support it, we would be very grateful.

"This is our way of saying thank you for all that William helped our children to achieve."

Children who were taught by Willie have gone onto the Facebook page - Friends of William Turner Ballinderry Swimming School - to pledge their support for their former teacher.

One pupil posted a moving video of himself with a message to Willie pledging to donate his pocket money.

On Just Giving, well-wishers have also been leaving encouraging messages for the man who had such an impact on them, with one person writing: "Don't think you realise how special you are William! Praying for you and your lovely family" Another person wrote: "I've known William since he was a toddler. Always been the nicest person you could ever meet. This is just too sad for words."

Willie was yesterday undergoing tests in hospital, but his fiancée Lyndsey said: "Willie was devastated when he had to quit work, and he is really humbled by the way parents have supported him. We both are really grateful to everyone for their support. It has been amazing."

Belfast Telegraph

Editors Choice

Also in Life