Life has been an uphill struggle for mother-of-three Jo Griffith.
But her latest challenge is arguably the biggest mountain she has had to climb so far...building a community centre in memory of her eldest daughter Lauren.
Tragically Lauren, who had severe learning difficulties, passed away in May at the age of 25 after a desperate battle with mental illness.
Now Jo has set up a charity in her name, with the ambitious aim of launching a special day centre where people with similar struggles can go to enjoy activities like drama, dance and exercise classes.
The opening fundraising event is a dinner on November 10 in Lostock Hall. It is, admits Jo, only the first step on a long journey to make her dream come true.
“I know it’s a tall order - maybe too tall,” she confessed at home in Fulwood, Preston. “But I won’t know if I don’t try.
It’s about providing support for people who maybe feel they can’t go along to an existing community centre for fear of feeling awkward, or different, or not fitting in. We are looking to break down those barriers.
“There are a lot of charities asking for help these days. It’s a tough fundraising world out there, as I’ve been finding out.
“I feel a bit like I’m spinning plates at the moment. I’m getting great support from my family and friends. But at the end of the day building a dedicated community centre for other people like Lauren is a big ask.I don’t know exactly what the target is yet. But I know it will be huge and I have to accept that achieving it might not be realistic.”
Jo has called the fund Lauren’s (Forever Purple) Charity. She is in the process of launching a Just Giving page where donations can be pledged.
But while she keeps busy organising that and the sold out dinner at St Gerrard’s Club in Lostock Hall, the pain of Lauren’s passing is still raw.
Her daughter was in a hospital’s psychiatric intensive care unit (PICU) when she died suddenly on May 7.
An inquest has yet to be held to determine what happened.
The family still don’t have an official cause of death.
“No-one knows why she suffered a cardiac arrest,” explained Jo. “It was so sudden. There has to be an inquest and then maybe we will find out more.
“Lauren was very poorly. She had improved and become well again thanks to some wonderful care by some really wonderful people. But she started to relapse and had gone through a long period of being unwell.”
Lauren, the eldest of Jo’s three children, had behavioural problems as a child, but it was several years before she was diagnosed as having severe mental health issues. Her dad Peter Mackey entered the London Marathon in 2013 to raise money for the Mental Health Foundation.
Peter, who has since taken part in the Bolton Ironman and half Ironman events in Europe, is now planning to take on an epic challenge to cycle from Lands End to John O’Groats in nine or 10 days next May to raise cash for Lauren’s charity.
Jo explained: “There are three trustees of the charity, me, Peter and a very good friend Dr Gillian Thompson who is a great support. Lauren’s brother and sister also help and are extremely supportive too.
“The reason we wanted to provide a day community centre for people with learning difficulties and mental health issues is that it’s things like that which seem to be lacking after the cutbacks that have been made. They seem to have disappeared in recent years.
“It’s about providing support for people who maybe feel they can’t go along to an existing community centre for fear of feeling awkward, or different, or not fitting in. We are looking to break down those barriers.
“I would love to be able to raise enough money to build one from scratch. I would love it to be eco-friendly, with solar panels and as self-sufficient as possible.
“On the other hand there might be an existing building out there which could be converted.
“It’s early days - our first fundraiser isn’t for another two weeks or so. But if eventually it proves to be too ambitious a project then there are lots of worthy places out there that the money we have raised can go to.
“Or it may be that there is someone else out there who has a similar idea about doing the same sort of thing and we could possibly collaborate.
“Right now we want to get the charity up and running. We all want to do something in Lauren’s name and this just seems right.”