Sonia to cross Limerick’s bridges in memory of Brooklyn

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Sonia Aylmer who will be walking the three bridges in Limerick City in memory of her murdered son Brooklyn Colbert.

THE mother of 11-year old Limerick schoolboy Brooklyn Colbert, who was murdered in 2019, is getting ready to walk the city’s three bridges route in her son’s memory this Saturday.

Sonia Aylmer and her beloved Brooklyn regularly walked the scenic route together and participated in several Great Limerick Runs which are traditionally held over the May Bank Holiday Weekend.

Instead of taking part in this year’s run on Sunday, Ms Aylmer along with family and friends will walk the three bridges on Saturday from 11:11am, “to celebrate Brooklyn”, as well as raising funds for the North Star Family Support Project, where she has recently started as a volunteer worker.

“I’m doing the walk from my house to the three bridges. Myself and Brooklyn used to do that walk regularly, so myself my family will celebrate him on the day,” said Ms Aylmer.

“Interacting and connecting with people helps me and makes me stronger. I found the weekend over Easter very hard because it was a long weekend. It gets harder as time goes on, so any type of distraction helps. Time is not a great healer, not at all,” she added.

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Brooklyn was beaten with a hammer and stabbed multiple times by his half-uncle, Paddy Dillon, (29), of Dalgaish Park, Moyross, at a house on Shanabooley Road, Ballynanty on November 3, 2019.

He was given a life sentence in February last year after pleading guilty to murder.

Brooklyn Colbert at the Great Limerick fun run.

Ms Aylmer said she wanted to “give back” to so many in the community who have continued to support her through grief, particularly Julie McKenna, of the homeless charity NOVAS, as well as Kathleen Chada, whose two sons Eoghan (10) and Ruairi (5) were murdered by their father Sanjeev Chada on July 29, 2013.

All donations received through a GoFundMe account, established by Ms Aylmer, will go towards Northstar.

Ms Aylmer, who raised €3,000 for NOVAS in 2020, said she recently started as a volunteer worker with North Star Family Support Project, which provides support to relatives struggling to cope with loved ones who are in addiction.

“I started about five weeks ago and I feel it has helped me. I said before that I always wanted to give something back and help others in Brooklyn’s memory,” she explained.

Posting a message on the GoFundMe online fundraising account, Ms Aylmer wrote: “Again this year, I would like to do a walk in memory of Brooklyn, who loved to help people and this year I’m raising money to benefit Northstar Family Support Project as they assist a lot of families in the community.

“I know this would make Brooklyn very proud,” she added.

Northstar coordinator Joe Slattery said that it was the only service in the Mid West that specifically works with families as opposed to working with the drugs user and their family.”

“We provide ‘time for me’ supports for families and work collaboratively with many other services, such as the NOVAS Respite House in Newport, where a lot of our families go for respite days and holistic therapies,  just to get a break from the stresses of their lives,” he explained.

“We try to promote individual self-care as opposed to constantly worrying about their loved one and ‘how am I going to fix them’ and worrying about ‘everything I need to do for them’.

“Our approach is self-care first, so you can love yourself just as much as your loved one and put energy into your own wellness as well as trying to help the other person.”

Northstar also provides free one-to-one family key-worker supports, peer support groups, social activities, arts and crafts, creative writing, drug awareness educational programmes, and opportunities to follow a career in cookery, as well as assisting in funding private counselling sessions.

Separately, Mr Slattery runs a private equine therapy programme in Ballina, near Killaloe, where Sonia has found solace.

Northstar project coordinator Joe Slattery at his counselling centre in Ballina.

“I found a connection with a little white foal because of what has been going on for me. I spent time with the horse, taking care of it, and it has helped me. It brings me peace, and the fact I’m out in nature, outdoors, all helps too,” explained Ms Aylmer.

Mr Slattery, a qualified therapist, “grew up in Southill and had horses as a youngster.

“In a lot of ways, horses helped me with my own emotional release, although I wouldn’t have known it then,” he explains.

“When people come to me, it is to work on emotional problems, sometimes trauma, sometimes depression or anxiety, so it’s counselling through the medium of interaction with horses,” he said.

“There is no horse riding, no horse management or cleaning out stables, or any of that. You are actually interacting with horses and what that might trigger for you or what memories it might bring up for you.

“Slowly then, as you are working through it, the horses start representing people and places in your life, so they are no longer horses they become metaphors for these other aspects of your life that you are trying to work through.”

Donations to the ‘Walk in memory of Brooklyn Colbert #forever11 can be made via https://www.gofundme.com/f/walk-in-memory-of-brooklyn-colbert-forever11?qid=f33ceea1510809b8b91d0e07f6b11476