Friends of a popular north-east teen have carried chicken and dinosaur mascots aloft on a walk through Elgin in his memory.
Philip Polese died in November last year after taking his own life when he was just 13 years old.
Parents Eddie and Kay Polese established a 1,200-mile fundraising mission this year to support the causes that provided valuable help and comfort to them.
And at the weekend dozens took part in a walk through Elgin in a day to remember Philip – raising more than £5,000 in the process.
Chicken and dinosaur mascots were waved during the five-mile expedition in tribute to a film project brought to a life by the Elgin High pupil’s sense of humour.
The walk was part of a day of events to remember Philip and support Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance, Finlay’s Friends and Archie’s child bereavement service – who all supported the family and friends in their time of need.
‘We wanted to include a fun element’
The event at Elgin Youth Cafe, which Philip regularly attended, was the culmination of a 1,200-mile joint fundraising effort from family and friends that has run for several weeks.
The distance was chosen to symbolise the car journey the teen loved taking with his parents on family holidays to Italy.
Phenomenal support from the community saw the target surpassed by more than 500 miles.
Mrs Polese said: “Philip is never coming back and nothing is ever going to change that, but the response to our fundraising is of great comfort to us and goes to show just how well he was thought of and loved by so many.
“We wanted to include a fun element at the Youth Cafe as Philip enjoyed many happy times there and his friends certainly made that happen.
“We had Riley stomping about in a 6ft inflatable dinosaur costume bringing back happy memories of Philip and his model dinosaurs, which were in a hilarious film made at the Youth Cafe in October last year.”
Mr Polese added: “There are so many moving examples of people rallying round to support us.
“I work at RAF Lossiemouth and my work shift colleagues all gathered at lunch time and presented me with a lovely framed photograph of Philip looking so proud ready for his first day at Elgin High School.
“They had all signed it and I was deeply moved by their thoughtfulness, and they also presented me with £200 towards our fundraising.”
Support from strangers touched by Philip’s story
Supporters at the Elgin Youth Cafe also pushed their legs to the limit on spin bikes to raise money for the causes.
Meanwhile, people moved by Philip’s tragic story also joined the efforts.
There was also an emotional reunion as the first police officer to respond on the night of Philip’s death joined on the day – after also setting himself a personal 100K challenge to help the family.
Elgin Youth Cafe youth worker Donna Breen said: “Philip’s death sent shockwaves through the community and Kay and Eddie’s courage in organising this fundraising tribute in memory of Philip gave many of us the opportunity to let them know he lives on in precious memories.
“Their grief is palpable and in working so hard to make this day a success they have given many of us the opportunity to let them know there is ongoing support for them.
“I was also very moved by some people who came along who wanted to support Kay and Eddie because of the bravery they showed in going public with Philip’s story in anti-bullying week last November, within weeks of his death.
“Suicide is still a very taboo subject and they had particularly been affected by suicide in their lives too and feel, as a community, we need to have more open conversations if we are going to help people seek help and those coming to terms with loss.”
Money will support others facing loss
Donations raised from the fundraisers will support causes that helped the Polese family and Philip’s friends after his death.
Crews from Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance rushed the teenager to Edinburgh’s Royal Hospital for Sick Children after the alarm was raised.
Meanwhile, Finlay’s Friends provided a comfort kit for Mrs Polese while she stayed in Edinburgh.
And Archie’s child bereavement services helped support some of Philip’s closest friends come to terms with his death.
Elgin Youth Cafe youth worker Dan McQuarrie said: “Philip’s friends really miss him and often share their happy memories together when chatting in the youth cafe.
“They feel such compassion towards Kay and Eddie, and it was lovely to see them channel it into bringing lots of fun and energy into Saturday’s event and the mature and friendly way they did everything to welcome Kay and Eddie to the youth cafe and help run the activities.
“When we were out on the walk members of the public asked why they were walking and they bravely told them they were walking in memory of their friend.
“I am not sure I could have handled that so well at their age, I was very impressed.”
Donations can still be pledged online to support the charities chosen by the Polese family here.