IT has been a year since Cheryl Darnell lost her husband, Rick. After 24 years of marriage, his death turned Cheryl’s world upside down.

Rick was only 61 but had been suffering from an ongoing heart problem.

Cheryl was devastated but had to go on for her disabled daughter, Ellie.

Cheryl, who lives in Colchester, has worked for the Colchester Children’s Charity for more than two years, but in the past year she has thrown herself even more into supporting the charity to take her mind off her tragic loss.

The charity helps children in need and Cheryl know at first hand what is involved in looking after a child with life-limiting conditions.

Daughter Ellie, ten, has sensory processing disorder and global development delay. She needs thousands of pounds of specialist equipment.

Cheryl said: “I just keep thinking of what I can do to raise money for the charity and keep my mind busy.

“I’m both a trustee and a fundraiser for the charity and I have now started working in the shop on a Friday.

“I have also started a group called Lost Souls Found, which is a medium group for people who have lost loved ones.

“We have meetings on the first Friday of every month and I have raised £700 from that so far for the charity. I hope to reach £1,000.”

Over the Christmas period she and Labour councillor Dave Harris will also be taking Santa’s sleigh round the town to raise money for the children’s charity.

Cheryl, 51, said: “The past year I have been trying to keep my mind occupied, I’m constantly finding things to do.

“I hold raffles every week with the new donations we get at the shop.

“It’s my way of dealing with losing Rick.”

Rick was in the Royal Artillery and later worked at Colchester Hospital as a porter.

The couple met through work and Cheryl said her husband was a gentle man.

She said: “A year later and it hasn’t got any easier. It has been hard work looking after Ellie.

“I just try to keep busy and it makes me feel good as I know I’m helping others.

“I know how expensive it can be to look after a disabled child.”

Luckily Ellie has all the equipment she needs for now, and Cheryl can get most of it through the NHS.

However, if there is something Ellie needs which is not NHS funded, she would have to go to a children’s charity to get it.

Ellie has a special chair for when she is eating, and a showering chair, hoists and a special push bike which cost £2,000.

With so much on her mind it has not been easy for Cheryl, but she continues to do so much for the community.

She thanked all the staff and volunteers at Colchester Children’s Charity for their support especially after she lost Rick.

To mark a year since his death, Cheryl and her family took a trip to Walton beach to release some balloons.

It was Rick and Ellie’s favourite place.

His memory lives on.