Memory of Ria Helsdon lives on in Great Yarmouth sports hall

A VIBRANT and busy school hall has been dedicated to the memory of inspirational student Ria Helsdon.

Popular Ria’s promising young life ended almost a year ago after a four-year battle with cancer that amazed everyone who knew her and hundreds more who didn’t.

Last week her parents Heather and Roger Helsdon of Beatty Road, Great Yarmouth, joined around 60 close teenage friends and family for the official unveiling of a plaque naming the hall after their daughter.

As the sunny hub of the school and focus for fun gatherings as well as serious assemblies headteacher Andy Toone said it was an appropriate focus for Ria who shone a light around everyone she came into contact with.

In an emotional speech Mr Toone also talked about her love for art and creativity and what a good example she was to the school community which would carry on down the generations and to her own relatives who would join the school one day.

Angela Crowe, whose daughter Beth was one of Ria’s closest friends, said the event mixed sadness with celebration – not only for Ria’s life but for her mother Heather’s 50th birthday.

On arrival Mrs Helsdon was handed flowers and treated to a rousing chorus of happy birthday. Addressing the assembled friends she said she and husband Roger had their memories but were really grateful and appreciative of all the fundraising and memorial efforts that had taken place in the last year, inspired by Ria.

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A picture of Ria framed with two poems she wrote while she was ill hang alongside the plaque.

Mrs Crowe praised chair of governors Linda Fisher for her role in making the event happen. Vice-chairman Derrick Hill read a poignant prayer.

Ria was 10 when she was first diagnosed with cancer. Four years of operations, setbacks and false hopes followed – Ria always retaining her funny, bubbly, cheery outlook, defying hair loss with a series of colourful bandanas.

A determined personality destined, she hoped, for a career in journalism – she remains much more than a memory for hundreds of people around the town whose outlook has been altered forever.