On the 24th of July, we hosted a memorial rugby match at Merchiston Castle School in Edinburgh in memory of our dear friend, Ben Vessey, who we lost to suicide in August of last year. Ben was a supremely talented, vibrant, charming and caring young man, whose kindness and humour touched all those who knew him. As a school year group, we are extremely close; we all graduated from Merchiston in 2017 and Ben’s death had a profound impact on us all. This was compounded by the fact that due to COVID-19 restrictions we were unable to say a proper ‘goodbye’ to our friend.

Therefore, Luca and I, on behalf of all of Ben’s close friends, decided to organise ‘The Ben Vessey Memorial Rugby Match,’ to bring together all of those who loved Ben, and to raise money for PAPYRUS, as requested by his parents Sue and Jason.

The occasion fulfilled its purpose of being a day full of love, kindness, warmth and togetherness – something we know so many have missed over the last 18 months. The game itself was played in the finest sporting traditions and saw the Jason XV defeat the Sue XV by 21 points to 15, to clinch the Ben Vessey Memorial Cup.

Sue and Jason have decided to gift the cup to Merchiston; it will be presented at Prizegiving to a pupil who has shown kindness, compassion and support to another pupil, and encapsulates everything that Ben was to us.

We have been blown away by the generosity of so many people who have donated in Ben’s memory. From online fundraising via our MuchLoved page, coupled with the money we raised on the day of the match itself, we have managed to raise a total of £25,839.09, which is just astounding and we are so proud of everyone who has supported us. We must mention how fantastic it has been to have a MuchLoved page during this whole process.

We set one up on the recommendation of PAPYRUS and it has been an absolutely brilliant way to merge a place for people to share photos, videos and memories of Ben with one for donations to the charity in his name. It is so wonderful that people visiting the site to donate to such an amazing cause could also look at all of the pictures shared by his family and friends at the same time. It also means that any fundraising events we do in the future in honour of Ben can all go directly through the same page, which is immensely practical and means we will always have a reminder of just how much he meant to so many people.

Most importantly we would like to mention what this process has meant to us and the impact it has had on so many of Ben’s close family and friends. Losing Ben was an immense tragedy that none of us could ever have been prepared for, however, despite the darkness of this awful time, moments of real light and joy have emerged and reminded us all of that same light that Ben blessed our lives with.

The unfaltering love and support that hundreds of people have shown in recent months is testament to the strength of the friendships that Ben made, and we can find comfort in the community of people that have come together to remember him, and all of the unforgettable moments that each of us shared with him.

Our commitment is now to continue to raise awareness about the struggles faced by so many young people, to encourage those who feel they need help to speak out and not suffer alone, and to treat everyone around us with the same kindness, compassion and understanding that Ben did in the years he spent with us; that is the legacy he leaves behind.

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