The family and friends of a young Coleraine man have spoken of their gratitude to the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust for their care and assistance in bringing their son back home to Northern Ireland after his sudden death.
On July 28, the Geddis family along with members of the Zanshin Shotokan Karate Club, loyal friends, and Sensei Brennan 8th Dan from the Karate Union of Great Britain presented the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust with a cheque for an incredible £10,000.
This money was raised to highlight and thank the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust’s dedication to bringing Zachary Geddis home to Northern Ireland with speed and dignity.
Twenty-year-old Zachary took his own life in his London student halls of residence in March 2017.
He had been attending the University of the Arts there.
It was while they were travelling to London to make arrangements to bring Zachary home that the Geddis family was put in touch with the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust by family member Marina McCorriston.
Yasmin Geddis, Zachary’s sister, said: “And with only three emails, the arrangements were made to have Zachary make his final journey across the water home to his family by boat and he was never left alone.
“This took place within six days of him passing and could have taken three weeks without their assistance.”
The Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust aims to alleviate the financial hardship of bereaved families repatriating the body (bodies) of loved one(s) who have died abroad in sudden or tragic circumstances back to Ireland.
The Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust was set up four years ago by the Bell family after a personal tragedy.
Colin Bell’s 26-year-old son, Kevin, was killed in a suspected hit-and-run in New York in June 2013.
Since then, the charity has helped hundreds of families whose loved ones have died away from home.
It can cost several thousand pounds to repatriate bodies and, until the trust was established, families had to pay themselves because neither the UK or Irish governments cover the expense.
In the aftermath of Kevin’s death, friends and people in Newry raised about £150,000 towards the cost of his repatriation from the US. However, after Kevin’s American employers agreed to pay to transport his body home, the Bell family decided to use the money to help other families who faced the same situation.
Mr Bell said: “Whenever a family does get that devastating news - they don’t know who to turn to and what we can do is take it out of their hands and we’ll make the arrangements we’ll get them home.” He described the trust as “Kevin’s legacy” and said although the work can often bring back memories evoking the loss of his son, the work is “therapeutic” and keeps Kevin’s name alive.
At the cheque presentation, Louise Geddis, Zachary’s mum, made a dedicated speech to the KBRT thanking them for what they did for the family.
She also thanked all the supporters who had helped to raise the £10,000 before stating that: “They are all superstars”.
This was a phrase that Zachary used often to highlight his love for those close to him.
The incredible sum of £10,000 was raised through various means of fundraising, with Zachary’s sister Yasmin raising £4,500 through her GoFundMe Page, collection boxes in various establishments throughout the Triangle area (thanks to Costa Coleraine, Starbucks, Ground Espresso Bar, Anchor Bar and
Complex and Morelli’s Ice Cream) and Yasmin’s sponsorship from.
Fundraisers were also held by the Banshee Irish Dancing Club and the Encore Theatre Company.
Many private donations were also made and the family received support from the community across Northern Ireland as the story of Zachary touched many households across the province.
The Geddis family are now planning on starting up their own trust in Zachary’s memory and are holding a fundraising Quiz Night in Shenanigan’s (Bar 7) on Friday, August 25 at 7pm.