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Community unites to honour the memory of Zac Thompson



AS SUMMER approaches and the county prepares for another holiday season, the community of Pembrokeshire stands determined to ensure that the tragic passing of 11-year-old Zac Thompson on West Angle beach last year does not become just another statistic.

One year has passed since Zac, described as “cheeky, mischievous, and loyal,” lost his life in a devastating drowning incident.

His family and friends, joined by a small group of coaches and parents, have established Forever11, a charity aimed at finding solace and promoting sea safety awareness in Zac’s name.

On that fateful evening in July, Zac, a pupil at Pembroke Dock Community School, had no intention of venturing into the sea. Accompanied by his elder brother and their 11-year-old cousin, they had gathered on the beach to witness the beauty of the sunset. Tragically, an unexpected “freak wave” swept the boys off the rocks, and Zac found himself caught in a powerful whirlpool.

Although his two family members managed to scramble to safety on nearby rocks, Zac succumbed to the water’s grasp.

A vigilant member of the public brought him to the shoreline, where emergency services were waiting. He was swiftly airlifted to the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff, but tragically passed away the following day.

This heartbreaking incident had a profound impact on the close-knit community, particularly Zac’s rugby team.

In response to this senseless loss, a dedicated group of coaches and parents formed Forever11, aiming to bring forth positivity in the face of tragedy. Natalie John, aged 35, and Lucy Cawley, both trustees of the charity, refer to their group as “one big family.”

Since its inception, Forever11 has managed to raise £11,000 through a family fun day held last August, as well as an additional £5,000 from various events.

The charity’s simple yet powerful mission is to educate the local community about sea safety and awareness.

This message carries profound significance in Pembrokeshire, a region marked by one of the highest rates of water-related fatalities in Wales. Natalie highlighted that a significant portion of these incidents involve individuals who had no intention of entering the water.

Lucy, a mother of two boys herself, struggles to comprehend the loss: “You just can’t imagine living without your children.” Zac was an enthusiastic sportsman and a capable swimmer.

Lucy described him as “cheeky, mischievous, very, very loyal to his mates, incredibly kind and compassionate.” Natalie, a mother of four boys whose husband coached Zac’s rugby team, added that he was protective, ensuring fairness and kindness towards others. He possessed a gentle and caring nature.

These sentiments echo the heartfelt tribute shared by Zac’s mother, Carli Newell, a journalist at The Pembrokeshire Herald. During the inquest she said: “Zac was a complete one of a kind. He was funny, cheeky, kind, caring, courageous, and a big ball of fun with mischief running through his bones.”

Zac’s magnetic charm, coupled with his striking features and piercing blue eyes, left a lasting impression on all who knew him.

Natalie and Lucy fondly remember how he had the innate ability to bring a smile to anyone’s face. “He was one of those kids who could walk into a room not knowing anyone but he would walk out with 100 new friends,” they remarked. “You were just drawn to him.”

A talented sportsman, Zac excelled in various disciplines, with football being his greatest passion. He played at county level and represented the Swansea City academy. Lucy attests that he possessed the talent to pursue a professional football career.

Additionally, he demonstrated his sporting prowess in rugby, where he was regarded as a superstar within his team. In August following his passing, Zac’s teammates organized a memorial football and rugby match to honor his memory and facilitate healing through open conversations.

Zac’s circle of friends had been together since the age of four, and their memories of him are cherished. Reflecting on the tragedy,

Natalie emphasised that it struck a chord with everyone, as it could have happened to any of them. Determined to ensure Zac’s memory endures, she intends to make this year’s fun day, scheduled for July 22 to coincide with Zac’s funeral anniversary, even more significant than the previous one.

Image credit: RNLI David Barrett

Originally intended as a one-off event, the inaugural fun day garnered overwhelming support from the community, raising over £10,000, which was split between the Wales Air Ambulance and Angle RNLI, organizations that provided aid during Zac’s rescue. Subsequently, Forever11 attained official charity status, enabling them to focus on water safety and drowning prevention in Pembrokeshire.

The charity’s efforts thus far have included identifying and replacing broken or missing life-saving equipment, such as life rings and throw ropes, along the coastline.

Additionally, they conducted their first free water safety awareness course for 32 schoolchildren. However, their ambitions extend further, recognizing the importance of educating children in real-world beach scenarios.

Natalie observed that despite living in a coastal region, many children have not experienced the beach. While it is impossible to shield children from all dangers, raising awareness and providing knowledge about tides, winds, and water conditions can make a significant difference.

Natalie shared, “Living on the coast, it’s surprising the number of children who haven’t been to the beach.” Through their initiatives, Forever11 aims to instill a sense of vigilance and preparedness among young beachgoers.

Reflecting on the establishment of Forever11, the team stated, “Forever11 started out as a saying by Zac’s school and teammates. It’s something that resonated across the community as a symbol of our love and heartache – a loss that impacted and shocked everyone who knew him. We often talk about the rugby family, and for us, Zac was part of that family.”

This year’s fun day promises to be an engaging event, featuring a samba band, performances by the Kelly Williams school of dance, axe-throwing and archery by Paddle West, and music by Honey Fungus. Traditional stalls, a display by the Pembrokeshire fire spinners, and various inflatable attractions will also be available for attendees.

More details can be found on the Forever11 website as the community rallies together to honor the cherished memory of Zac Thompson and prevent future tragedies in the waters surrounding Pembrokeshire

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Mental Health support project in running for Lottery’s ‘Project of the Year’



A HAVERFORDWEST project which aims to improve the mental health of the people of West Wales by providing free support, is appealing for votes to be crowned National Lottery Project of the Year.

Get The Boys a Lift beat off stiff competition from 3,780 organisations to reach the public voting stage in this year’s National Lottery Awards, which celebrates the inspirational projects and people who do extraordinary things with the help of National Lottery funding.

There are 17 shortlisted finalists from across the UK, all of which will compete in a four-week public vote from 11th September to 9th October to be named the National Lottery Project of the Year. Winners will receive a £5,000 cash prize for their project and an iconic National Lottery Awards trophy.

Get The Boys A Lift (GTBAL) is a not-for-profit organisation launched by a group of friends which provides free mental health support to the people of Pembrokeshire while promoting open discussions about mental wellbeing. The project has gone from strength to strength since 2016, now offering a mix of in-person and online counselling services to anyone over 17.

The team run a clothing and coffee shop in Haverfordwest called ‘Our Place’, offering a unique café experience where visitors can chat to counsellors and make new friends. The project’s drop-in service has provided around 500 people with free and easy support, without the challenge of extensive waiting lists. The project’s online counselling service, which launched during the pandemic, also gives clients the option to have sessions remotely.

With support from The National Lottery, the project was able to buy a coffee van in 2022, allowing representatives to travel further afield, not only raising funds to maintain the organisation’s services, but promoting its core message about the importance of openness around mental health.

GTBAL runs regular events across the region, including outreach in schools and workplaces as well as community events. Its ‘Break the Stigma’ coffee van has been stationed at Freshwater West in Pembrokeshire across the summer, giving the team a chance to spread the GTBAL message to a wider audience, not only to local people, but the region’s many visitors. Profits from the project’s bespoke clothing range, which includes everything from hoodies to beach towels, go back into the team’s crucial work.

Greg Walters, Director at GTBAL, said: “It is a real honour to be nominated and to be part of this process. It feels really special to be recognised for the work we do at Get the Boys a Lift. Thanks the to support of our community we’ve been able to save a lot of lives. We hope that people will vote for us and we can continue to spread the word about the help we provide!”

Jonathan Tuchner, from The National Lottery, added: “We’re so pleased to have received so many nominations highlighting the excellent work that National Lottery-funded projects are doing up and down the UK. It’s no secret that times are tough, so it’s great to see so many people and projects dedicating so much time and energy into giving something back to their communities.

“It’s thanks to National Lottery players, who raise more than £30 million each week for good causes, that the work of these amazing projects is made possible.

“Get The Boys A Lift are making an incredible impact in their local community and they thoroughly deserve to be in the finals of the National Lottery Awards Project of the Year 2023. With your support, they could be a winner.”

To vote for Get The Boys A Lift, please go to Or simply use their specific hashtag on X (formerly known as Twitter) #NLAGTBAL . Voting runs from 9am on 11th September until 12pm on 9th October.

For further information please contact The National Lottery Awards: Oswyn Hughes on 07976 324 179 or email [email protected]

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How community-run pubs and shops revitalise west Wales



WEST WALES celebrates as community-run pubs and shops promise a new wave of employment and trading opportunities. The recent trend of communities banding together to buy beloved establishments, turning them from privately-owned entities into cooperatively-run ventures, has become a lifeline for some local favourites.

At the heart of Newport, Pembrokeshire, Havards Ironmunger’s store stands as a beacon of hope. The community has rallied behind its purchase, ensuring its doors remain open and its products accessible to the locals. However, Havards isn’t the only establishment to benefit from this community spirit.

Each establishment purchased through this community cooperative model aims not only for profit but also seeks active participation from the community to steer its future. These “social businesses” have been sprouting all over West Wales. From the Tafarn Sinc pub in Rosebush, purchased in 2017, to the White Hart Pub in St Dogmaels and the recent community buyout of Tafarn y Vale in South Ceredigion, the wave of community-driven commercial ventures is unmistakable.

Two additional Pembrokeshire projects deserve special mention: the community-driven purchases of Cross Inn, Hayscastle and Tafarn Crymych Arms pub. Each cooperative business relies on the tireless work of volunteers, all united by a common goal: to ensure local trade thrives, offering employment to local residents.

The Tafarn Crymych Arms, which remained closed for two long years, is buzzing with activity once more. The team is actively seeking local suppliers for its restaurant and recruiting fresh talent for the roles they offer. With positions such as a 3-day-a-week Grants Manager and a full-time Pub Manager available, locals have a chance to be a part of this community resurgence.

Cris Tomos, a staunch supporter of these community cooperatives and a member of community development charity PLANED, expressed his enthusiasm, “The ability for communities to own and retain local establishments is pivotal. This model paves the way for local produce and offers competitive employment opportunities.” He adds that there’s a wealth of support for such ventures, urging interested parties to visit the PLANED website for comprehensive guidance on community ownership projects.

Job seekers, take note: the deadline for positions at Crymych Arms is approaching fast, set for the 16th of September. Full details can be found at

In Tomos’s words, “It’s truly heartening to witness the rise of community cooperatives. These hubs – be it shops or pubs – are essential for community life, and the support they’ve garnered is nothing short of commendable.”

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Aldi donates 66,200 meals to Welsh charities over the summer



ALDI stores in Wales donated 66,200 meals to families in need during the recent summer school holidays. 

All of its Welsh stores supported local charities and foodbanks during a period of increased demand by redistributing surplus food via community giving platform Neighbourly. 

Since Aldi’s partnership with Neighbourly began in 2019, Aldi stores across the country have already donated more than 35 million meals – including over seven million meals so far this year.  

This summer, Aldi also gave every child in the UK a chance to try an Olympic or Paralympic sport for free as part of its ‘Get a Taste for Sport’ initiative, helping parents meet the cost of providing healthy activities during the summer holidays. 

Liz Fox, Corporate Responsibility Director at Aldi UK, said: “The school holidays are always an incredibly hard time for households across the country, made even worse by the ongoing cost-of-living crisis. That’s why we committed to supporting even more families in Wales this summer via our food donations scheme with Neighbourly, helping vital charities provide meals to those who need them most.” 

Steve Butterworth, from Neighbourly, added: “Demand on charities and foodbanks in Wales is incredibly high. This push in donations from Aldi was essential in helping so many families during the school holidays and we know how grateful the organisations were for the supermarket’s support.” 

Shoppers can also donate food to local charities, food banks and community groups via the community donation points in Aldi stores nationwide. 

Britain’s fourth largest supermarket also works with Company Shop, the UK’s leading redistributor of surplus food and household products, to redistribute surplus food from its Regional Distribution Centres to Community Shops around the country.  

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