Climbing fund delight

Climber James Brownhill
Climber James Brownhill

FORMER work colleagues of a Sheffield climber who died this year in an accident in the French Alps have stepped in to ensure his memorial fund gets back on track after the theft of £1,500 of donations and sponsorship.

James Brownhill worked at the Decathlon sports equipment store in Eyre Street while studying to become a physiotherapist. After his death at the age of 22, staff raised £150 for a memorial plaque and now the company is making a donation to compensate for the money that was stolen last month in a burglary at James’ girlfriend’s Sinead’s house in Manchester.

“When we discovered that money raised in aid of the memorial fund was stolen, we were horrified,” said store manager Kate Pintara. “Our country manager Steve Dykes and myself agreed to offer the stolen amount of £1,500 to the fund to get it back on track. As a team, all together we have managed to bring James’ family some good news.

“We know that this money will be well spent and that James’ memorial fund will be a huge success, supporting climbers who are passionate about the sport and promoting safety in mountains.”

James fell with climbing partner David Evans, from Liverpool, who also died in the accident near Chamonix on July 1.

His family was distraught when the money was stolen, saying it would knock two years off the predicted lifespan of the memorial fund, which aims to encourage a higher level of safety, good practice and sustainability in university climbing clubs.

The Decathlon plaque is due to be installed next month. Kate said James was “well-loved” member of staff.

“If anyone complained of aching muscles or injuries, he was always first on the scene to test out his newly-acquired skills.

“He spent most of his time working in our customer services team and no matter what his mood was, he was always smiling and cracking jokes – not always good jokes either! Actually, rarely a good joke. But more importantly, he put a smile on other people’s faces. A skill which is perhaps higher than any other in life.”

Kate added: “He never missed out on good times which meant he not only socialised with work colleagues, but usually their friends too! Anyone in store would say their lasting vision of James would be that he was truly happy.”

James’ parents, Gary and Christine, of Lodge Moor, said the gesture from Decathlon was “wonderful. It was a totally unexpected and heart-warming response from James’ former employer, after the distress and anger we all felt following the burglary in Manchester,” said Gary.

In addition to the memorial plaque, it made the family “feel so proud about the way James, and his brothers, have conducted themselves in their lives, often without us knowing, and to create such a network of generous friends at Decathlon and elsewhere”.

Many other gestures of support from around the world had shown “that when it counts, there is an awful lot of good in our world and we would like to say thank you again to them all”, said Gary.

A hockey tournament will be held at Abbeydale Sports Club, Dore, on Sunday in memory of James, who was a keen member of Sheffield Hockey Club, and in aid of the fund. At least 60 players are expected to take part, between 2pm and 5pm, and the tournament will be followed by a barbecue and a raffle. The tournament is open to everybody.

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