Arsenal have helped to fund and support Love And Loss, a charity that runs sessions for families who have lost loved ones to knife crime. Founder Tanisha Appleton tells us how tragedy for her own family inspired her to help others.
“My cousin Stefan was 18 when he was fatally stabbed in Islington. It was a sunny day in June and he was in Nightingale Park next to the play area with his friends at around 6pm when a moped pulled up and chased them. One of the boys caught up with Stefan and attacked him. He died in hospital that night.
“Stefan was very full of life, happy, boisterous in a playful way. He had a really good sense of humour and his smile lit up the room. He had an aura about him, and for him to be taken from us in that way was such a massive shock. Then everything that comes after that is a continuation of the nightmare. There was a trial, and you relive what happened to him every single day. It turns your world upside down and you just try to get through each day and survive.
“I kept busy by throwing myself into arranging the funeral and then attending the trial every day, trying to support the family. Then it stops – the trial is over so what now? There’s nothing to focus on and all you have is the grief.
“My aunt, Stefan’s mum, and I attended the Mayor Of London’s knife summit and met Catherine Briody, who works on tackling crime and youth violence for Islington Council. She was aware of the case and was very supportive when we had the idea of doing something to help other families who were in the same situation as us. That’s when we started Love And Loss.
“We hold sessions at The Arsenal Hub on a monthly basis, and it’s a space where families can come together and speak freely and openly to share experiences and talk about how they’re feeling, how they’re coping. It’s a safe space and the bonds between us have grown to the point where we’re like a family, because we’ve all been through similar experiences. We check up on each other, we often run activities like card making, because sometimes you don’t want to talk, and we also went out for a Christmas lunch in December – Christmas is a really difficult time and it’s important to have a source of support.
“For me, Love And Loss helped give me a purpose and helped me through the grieving process. You’re left feeling empty and you don’t know where to go or what to do next. I think it has helped the whole family, and it’s a source of comfort for us. It also helps to keep Stefan’s name alive, which is important for us because he made people feel good.
“I hope No More Red continues to raise awareness of knife crime – it’s still happening, families are still suffering and it’s important for people to know that. I also think the work of The Arsenal Foundation, who have helped us with funding, and Arsenal in the Community, who have supported us and given us a space to meet, is so important because it gives the club that vital connection with the local community. Football is not just what we see on TV. It’s so much more than that.”
A final word
Blaise Lewinson, then aged 17, was handed a life sentence for the manslaughter of Stefan Appleton in May 2016, nearly a year after the crime was committed. The judge lifted reporting restrictions and allowed the boy to be named because of public interest in the trial, and because his sentence should act as a deterrent to others.
We have huge admiration for the Appleton family and the work that Love And Loss is doing – which is one of the reasons why we commissioned the portrait of Stefan that Tanisha and her aunt are holding – but we also firmly believe that charities such as Love And Loss should not need to exist. We don’t want to see bereaved relatives working in honour of lost loved ones because we don’t want them to be bereaved in the first place, and that is and will remain the driving force behind the No More Red campaign, now and in the future.
For more info email Loveandloss15@hotmail.com
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