“Scotty’s has helped me in so many ways, they help pick you up when you’re feeling low, and they are the reason I want to work with children.”
18-year-old Phoebe Thompson was just 10 years old when her dad, Navy Operator Mechanic (OM1) James Thompson, died after being diagnosed with a melanoma. Here, Phoebe talks about growing up without her dad and how Scotty’s Little Soldiers has not only supported her, but inspired her career.
At just 10 years old, Phoebe Thompson experienced the unthinkable. Her dad, her hero, died suddenly after being diagnosed with a melanoma just weeks before.
The death of her dad at such a young age meant Phoebe, who lived with her mum Amy and older brother Hugo, had to grow up very quickly. She became a pillar of strength and support for her family during this devasting time.
Navy Operator Mechanic (OM1) James Thompson died on 18th November 2014, he was 39 years old and had spent 20 years serving with the Royal Navy. His death came as a shock to the whole family - he died only three weeks after his diagnosis.
Phoebe and her brother, Hugo, were 10 and 12 years old at the time and, over the years, have learnt to live their lives without their dad by their side.
For Phoebe, everything she has experienced as a child and the support she’s received from bereaved Armed Forces children’s charity, Scotty’s Little Soldiers, has inspired her to pursue a career in child psychology.
Phoebe and Hugo were introduced to Scotty’s Little Soldiers in 2015 following a family break in Whitby. The charity has been a great comfort to both as they’ve grown up and has enabled them to form valuable relationships with other children in similar situations.
“Scotty’s has helped me in so many ways,” said Phoebe. “There were times after my dad died, and as I’ve grown up, that I felt so low, but Scotty’s were always there and helped pick me back up again. Going back to school after dad died was particularly difficult, as a lot of my friends didn’t understand what I was going through, which was really hard. It got a lot easier when I joined Scotty’s as I felt supported. I was able to talk to other children who were just like me and were going through exactly what I was going through.”
One of the first, and for Phoebe, most vital elements of support provided by Scotty’s following her dad’s death, was a respite break away as a family. Phoebe and her family went on holiday to a Scotty’s lodge on the first anniversary of her dad’s death, which gave them all valuable time together to remember him. Phoebe said: “I remember staying at the Scotty’s Lodge, it was great and just what we needed. It was a lovely way of keeping dad’s memory alive. It was the first anniversary of his death and such a hard time, but we were able to enjoy time together and remember dad, which was what it was all about. I can’t thank Scotty’s enough for that experience.”
Phoebe’s first experience of a Scotty’s Christmas Party was not long after her dad’s anniversary and was initially something she was unsure about attending. Phoebe said: “I was so nervous about going at first, but we met so many other children who were just like me. Being able to talk about my dad with other children who knew what I was going through was such a big help. Just from the party alone, I’ve made so many new friends and we all keep in touch. Because of Scotty’s, I haven’t just made friends, I’ve made forever friends.”
As a young girl, Phoebe loved to dance and from 3 to 13 years old she took ballet lessons. After her dad died, Phoebe turned to ballet as an escape and, to help fund her classes, a grant provided by Scotty’s as part of the charity’s Strides programme. Phoebe said: “Receiving the grant from Scotty’s meant so much, it meant that mum didn’t need to struggle to find the money to pay for my lessons, and it meant I could carry on doing what I loved.”
Now 18-years-old, Phoebe is looking forward to the next stage in her life and hopes to study a Psychology degree at Newcastle or Manchester University. With the aid of Scotty’s Springboard programme, which supports members aged 18 to 25, she will continue to receive support through to the end of her education and beginning of her career, assisting with opportunities to develop her education and life skills.
“Scotty’s has inspired me to do what I want to do,” said Phoebe. “Having gone through all that I went through as a child, I know I want to follow a pathway that means I can help other children, which is why I want to look at a career in child psychology. Having Scotty’s support over the years has hugely influenced my decision on what to study as I’ve seen personally over the years how important it is.”
As part of the Springboard programme, Phoebe will also receive support with her university tuition fees and reassurance that the charity is still there when she needs them. She said: “The Springboard programme is massively useful, the allowance for university is really helpful and it’s also comforting to know that the support is still there. Although I’m older, there are still times when I feel emotional about what happened to dad, that won’t ever go away. Knowing that there is always someone there to talk to when I need them is greatly reassuring.”
Scotty's is currently helping hundreds of bereaved Forces children and young people around the UK. Services offered include guidance to parents and carers, access to professional child bereavement support, personal education and development (including grants), and fun activities such as holiday respite breaks and group events. These are all designed to remind children and young people supported by Scotty’s that they are not alone.