Grieving family raise £16,000 in tribute to late son

Much-missed talented Harrogate teenager Dom Sowa.
Much-missed talented Harrogate teenager Dom Sowa.

A grieving Harrogate family who have raised more than £16,000 for charity in two weeks say they have been overwhelmed by public support since the death of their teenage son.

Speaking only days after friends, family, teachers and fellow sixth formers gathered at Rudding Park to celebrate the life of the talented and popular Dom Sowa, his mother Pat said she had been stunned by the number of people who had come forward saying they, too, suffered from social anxiety.

Pat said: “From the outside, Dom looked like anyone else. He looked like a happy person ready to go to university.

“If you have social anxiety you need to talk about it. But talking about it is the hardest thing to do when you have it. It’s like asking someone with a broken leg to go for a run.

“I’ve been stunned by the number of people not only who have contributed to our fundraising but who also have said they have social anxiety, too.”

Since the much-missed Dom’s body was found in the waters off the coast of Newquay, Pat and husband Jan have been determined to make his passing have positive results for other people battling with social anxiety and mental health issues.

The appeal they launched through a JustGiving page in memory of Dom to raise money for three charities, including Papyrus, a young person’s suicide prevention charity.

Pat said: “As a family, we can’t get Dom back but we’re trying to turn our loss into something positive.

“I know from our JustGiving page that young people have gone to their parents as a result or their GPs to say they have a problem, too.

“If we can save just one person it will have been worth it.”

Although Dom, 17, was creatively-gifted and a fine musician and singer in particular, he never performed in public.

That was something which both his parents and the school Dom went to, Harrogate Grammar School, were keen to address at last week’s emotional ceremony in Rudding Park Chapel last Wednesday in front of more than 300 people.

Led by the school’s sixth form head, Neil Renton, among the moving tributes was a special video projected on three large screens of Dom singing and playing saxophone at home.

Neil Renton said it had been a huge honour to work with Dom’s parents who had been incredible throughout the whole traumatic time.

Neil said: “Dom was such a super young man. He was an amazing singer and very creative with words. His talent was epic. He had a huge amount of potential but was painfully shy.

“It was important for the school to support Dom’s family in their grief but also to help them raise awareness of the issues involved.

“As a mark of respect, we let all our sixth form students attend what was a powerful and meaningful ceremony. All the teachers who taught Dom also came.

“It was a huge honour to be asked to speak at the celebration of his life. Jan and Pat have shown just remarkable courage in the last few weeks and the dignity they have shown has been incredible.

“It’s a horrible situation for everyone to be in but they are wonderful people.”

Dom’s family are continuing to call for anyone suffering from depression and anxiety to seek help as soon as possible, as early intervention in mental illness makes it much easier to treat.

Brackenfield School where Pat is headteacher, have also dedicated all their fundraising activities for the school year in Dom’s name.

To find out more about Papyrus, visit www.papyrus-uk.org.

To contribute to the JustGiving page, go to http://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/dom-sowa