A daredevil couple have taken a “leap of faith” in aid of two homelessness charities in memory of an “amazing” young woman.
Kitchen assistant Iwan Rowlands, 25, and partner Leone Sherlock, 22, both did a tandem skydive to raise money for St Mary’s Hostel for the Homeless in Bangor and GISDA, a charity which offers vital support and opportunities for vulnerable and homeless young people in Gwynedd.
The towering £1,800 they raised will be split between the two charities and GISDA, who have bases in Caernarfon and Blaenau Ffestiniog, say funds will go directly to help the struggling and vulnerable users of their homeless hostel and other service users.
Iwan’s beloved sister, Karen Roberts, also known to her family and friends by the affectionate nicknames Kazza or Karen Bach, tragically died five years ago. She was lovingly fostered by Iwan’s parents as a child.
Karen came into contact with GISDA when she reached adulthood and they helped her find her own accommodation in Bangor and negotiate practical hurdles as she took her first steps towards independence.
Sadly, Karen, who had suffered mental health issues in her teens, found herself in a dark place emotionally and took her own life in September 2015, aged just 19.
It was a heartbreaking time for all her family and friends. But in the years since they have been determined to focus not on the sadness of her death but on the “incredible personality” that Karen was.
Every year since she passed away, Iwan’s parents and family have run a fundraising campaign for local charities in Karen’s memory.
But this year, as it was the fifth anniversary of her death, Iwan and his partner Leone wanted to do something bigger than ever.
Leone, who lives in Bethesda and works in a care home in Caernarfon, said: “It is five years since Karen died and it is a significant landmark for us all.
“It has also been an extra traumatic year for so many charities, particularly those like GISDA and St Mary’s, helping the poverty stricken and homeless through the difficult times of the pandemic on top of everything else.
“So, we wanted to do something extra special. Neither Iwan nor I had ever done anything like this before, but we wanted it to be big and bold, just like Karen’s amazing personality. We were trying to think of different ideas when we came across the skydiving site online and it just seemed perfect, daring and completely unforgettable – like Karen.”
Iwan and Leone did separate skydives from the same plane from an altitude of 10,000ft, each going tandem with a highly experienced professional instructor at Tilstock Skydive Club, in Whitchurch, Shropshire.
He said: “I just know that if Karen had still been alive today she would have been right behind me on this, kicking me out of the plane to make sure I did it, especially as it was for such a worthwhile cause. She was passionate about helping the homeless.
“Karen had a huge heart and always had a soft spot for the homeless people of Bangor. She was often seen about town talking to them and helping them whenever she could.”
Chief executive Siân Tomos said; “We are tremendously grateful to receive such a large donation. It is much appreciated and will go a long way towards helping vulnerable young people in this part of North Wales.
“It will go into our Helping Hands fund which provides grants directly to young people like Karen, aged 16-24, who need help towards securing accommodation and achieving self- sufficiency. This can be through assistance such as recruitment onto employment training schemes, educational courses, paying for clothing or even simple but practical requirements which can make a big difference such as funding transport to job interviews.”
GISDA is currently running a Christmas Appeal, urging people in Gwynedd to buy an extra gift to donate to the homeless. Donations can be dropped off with the organisation and will be sorted by GISDA’s staff and volunteers, then wrapped ready for a recipient.