Student nurse raises funds for her cousin’s charity

Joanne Curtis, from Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, and her two best friends have set the challenge of completing a virtual walk to New York to help raise vital funds to support hundreds of bereaved Forces children – and have already raised over £2,000!

The challenge, which started on 1st July, will see Joanne, Suzanne Cuthbert and Kerry Lee tackle 3,477 miles between them over the course of the year, raising much needed funds for bereaved Armed Forces charity, Scotty’s Little Soldiers, which was set up by Joanne’s cousin, Nikki Scott.

Nikki’s husband, Corporal Lee Scott, was killed in Afghanistan in 2009, leaving behind two young children. When Lee was killed, Joanne saw first-hand the devastating impact on her cousin, Nikki, and Nikki’s children Kai, who was five years old and Brooke who was just seven months.

A year after Lee’s death, Nikki set up Scotty’s Little Soldiers to help support bereaved British Forces children. The charity has grown from strength to strength and ten years on, Scotty’s supports hundreds of children across the UK who have lost a parent who served. For Joanne, Suzanne and Kerry, supporting Scotty’s Little Soldiers was an easy decision. As well as making a huge difference to the lives of many children and young people, Nikki has also inspired Joanne’s own career goals to help those in need, as Joanne, a single mum of four, is about to start her final year of training to become an Adult Nurse.

Back in 2009, after seeing how much Nikki was struggling with the loss of Lee, Joanne invited her and the children on a family holiday and it’s on this holiday that Nikki saw her son Kai smile for the first time since his dad’s death.

Joanne and Nikki having a family meal in Turkey 2010

Joanne said: “I didn’t really invite Nikki on holiday, I insisted. We all flew out on holiday and the kids were laughing and splashing about in the pool, we saw Kai laughing and smiling for the first time in months.

“It was then that Nikki dreamt up Scotty’s Little Soldiers and it was from there that things very quickly got moving. Family and friends got involved and the dream became a reality. I am so unbelievably proud of Nikki, and the kids, and how far they have come. Their lives were destroyed that day and I had no idea how to make it better. I couldn’t make it better and instinctively that’s what I wanted to do. I felt at such a loss.

“Building Scotty’s Little Soldiers has not only changed the lives of so many children who have lost a parent whilst serving, but it also gave Nikki her life back, it gave her a reason to carry on and keep Lee’s memory alive .I think she is incredible and totally amazing. It was seeing how Nikki turned her life around that inspired me to turn mine around too. And now I am one year off being a registered nurse.

“We initially aimed to raise £3,000. So far, we have raised just over £2,000. We would love to raise much more. It’s not just about fundraising though, raising awareness of the charity is so important too, there are still so many youngsters out there who would benefit from the support Scotty’s Little Soldiers can offer them.”

With each of the friends having a connection to Scotty’s or the military, the team of friends, who have named themselves ‘The Yaya’s’, have already completed 400 miles with 3,077 miles left to go.

Joanne and her friends on a fundraising walk for Scotty’s


Suzanne, a single mum of two and a full-time accountant, said: “I grew up in the British forces with my dad in the REME and have always had a huge respect for all our servicemen and women, the hard work and sacrifices they ultimately make.

“I remember after Lee died, hearing about Nikki from Joanne, the children, and the struggles and battles they were going through. I’ve seen the charity grow over the years and it’s just phenomenal what Nikki and the amazing team have created. I went to the Scotty’s Ball in 2019 and to hear the stories and see how many people are truly affected when a loved one is lost serving our country is nothing short of inspiring. To walk every day to get to our target of 3477 miles is nothing compared to what these families, wives, husbands and children go through. A child can’t process like an adult can and to have the loving arms of Scotty’s Little Soldiers around them is incredibly important. To not feel alone is crucial and that’s what this amazing charity gives. 

“I feel honoured to be doing this with my best friends, raising funds to bring some light into a child’s life, when suddenly one day their hero isn’t coming home. I grew up in the environment and they were the best years of my life surrounded with a fierce support network.”

Kerry, a full-time mum of three and a trainee teaching assistant, added: “I grew up living in Cyprus with my mum and stepdad, who served in the 1st Battalion of Fusiliers, so I had the military life experience myself. Growing up as a military child in the 80s and 90s, there was no help for families, nothing like Scotty’s Little Soldiers. The devastation left behind when a military parent dies is just inconceivable, and that is why the support and love that Scotty’s brings to these children is so crucial. 

“I am loving being a part of something so amazing and incredible. To think any money we are raising as a three will go towards helping the children, it makes me want to keep on going. The smiles it will bring to each little face makes me feel so proud and honoured to be showing support for the families.”

Scotty’s Little Soldiers supports its members in many ways, including providing access to the very best health and wellbeing care, offering educational support, and delivering outstanding development opportunities through a range of activity and educational grants. Scotty’s helps put smiles back on those brave faces by providing respite breaks, posting the children birthday and Christmas presents, and remembering the anniversary of their parent’s death, as well as arranging events where bereaved Forces children from all over the UK come together to have a great time and form friendships with kids in the same situation. 

In recent months, the charity has had to adapt to the current climate and has been using modern technology to arrange exciting virtual events and activities to engage with its members, ensuring them that in uncertain times such as these, they are not alone. Scotty’s has also been providing a high volume of wellbeing support to families who are suffering from enhanced anxiety and other problems due to the current health crisis.

Nikki commented on the group’s fundraising efforts: “I’m so proud of my cousin and her friends, what incredible ladies. They’re all so hard working, both professionally and as parents. I’m so grateful and humbled that they’re pushing themselves and taking the time to fundraise for our charity. All fundraising activity goes such a long way in helping to support a child or young person. Good luck ladies!”

To support The Yaya’s fundraising visit: 

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