A crowd of over a hundred parents, staff and pupils gathered in the grounds of Stoke Lodge Primary School on Friday 29th June to witness the unveiling of a bench in memory of Bailey Cooper, a former pupil who sadly passed away last Christmas Eve following a brave 15-month battle with cancer.
Bailey, who was nine years old when he died, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in October 2016. He endured four rounds of chemotherapy and steroid treatment at Bristol Children’s Hospital before being given the all-clear in February 2017 and returning to school. However, his cancer returned just a few months later and, despite the best efforts of his doctors, the disease was declared terminal at the end of August 2017.
Given just weeks to live, Bailey bravely fought on for long enough to meet his new baby sister Millie, born at the end of November.
The idea of installing a bench in Bailey’s memory was the brainchild of Roye Aguila, a parent of a pupil in Bailey’s class, who raised funds for the project by selling signed memorabilia and commissioned a wood carver to make the bench, which is decorated with the emblems of Bailey’s favourite superheroes.
Roye had asked Bristol Rovers captain Tom Lockyer to unveil the bench, as Tom had spent a lot of time in hospital with Bailey, who was a big Rovers fan. The decision to attend had been a “no brainer”, Tom told the assembled crowd.
Encouraging pupils to look on it as more of a “celebration bench“, he added: “Every time you sit here, think of the good times.”
The sentiment was echoed by headteacher Nicki Antwis who read out a poem which concluded: “Just smile as you sit here; On this bench of memories; And think of Bailey smiling; Laughing, amongst our trees.”
Following the unveiling, pupils, several of whom were overcome with emotions, took turns to sit on the bench and have their photo taken.
Roye Aguila commented:
“It’s a emotional day, especially for Lee and Rachel (Bailey’s parents), as well as the pupils and all who knew Bailey, but this bench is a place where pupils, staff, and anyone actually, will be able to go and have some quite time to just think about what an inspirational little superhero Bailey was.”
• The annual Stars of the Stokes community awards programme now includes a Bailey Cooper Award for Young Heroes, in Bailey’s honour.
Photos: 1 In the picture are Bailey’s parents, siblings and other family members, along with Bristol Rovers FC captain Tom Lockyer (far left), school headteacher Nicki Antwis (2nd from left) and fundraiser Roye Aguiler (2nd from right). 2 Bailey Cooper at the Stoke Lodge “Let’s CAP Cancer” day in February 2017.
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2018 issue of the Bradley Stoke Journal news magazine (on page 20). The magazine is delivered FREE, EVERY MONTH, to ALL 8,700 homes in Bradley Stoke. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.
Background: How Bristol boy Bailey Cooper, 9, fought cancer long enough to meet his baby sister (Bristol Post)
ADDENDUM: Full text of the poem read out by Mrs Antwis
Please Don’t Ever Tell Me
I’m going to tell you something
I hope you’ll never have to know.
I’ll tell you how a heart can break
And tears can constant flow.
We lost our friend you see,
An angel in our eyes
He left us one sad day you see
But all through his battle, he never cries.
So please don’t forget our Bailey
He was a wonderful person too
And forever he will live
In our memories, me and you.
So, please try to remember
Our Bailey and his smile
Because he will forever be
In our hearts, with us every mile.
Just smile as you sit here
On this bench of memories
And think of Bailey smiling
Laughing, amongst our trees.
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