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Ketton parents' campaign buys lifeboat in memory of Sonny Ferry who drowned in York river



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The parents of a teenager who drowned on a night out have helped buy a new lifeboat in his name following a three-year campaign.

Sonny Ferry, from Ketton, died in April 2019, aged 19, after falling into the River Foss in York.

Parents Steve and Kate met York Rescue Boat volunteers in the weeks following Sonny’s death and were inspired to launch the Sunshine Campaign.

Kate and Steve Ferry lay flowers at the Blue Bridge in York in memory of their son Sonny Ferry, who drowned in the River Foss in April 2019. Photo: The Press, York/Mike Laycock
Kate and Steve Ferry lay flowers at the Blue Bridge in York in memory of their son Sonny Ferry, who drowned in the River Foss in April 2019. Photo: The Press, York/Mike Laycock

Set up to raise £45,000 to buy a new lifeboat, the campaign aimed to improve safety along the river and stop others having to suffer the same grief.

The couple headed back to York this week for the launch of the state-of-the-art boat, named Spirit of Sonny in honour of the former Casterton College pupil.

“It was a really joyful event,” said Kate.

Sonny Ferry
Sonny Ferry

“I wondered how I would feel going back, but it was really lovely to see their faces.

“The guys from the rescue boat are wonderful people.”

The new lifeboat has bespoke modifications for river patrols, searches and rescues, and replaces the current boat which is nearing the end of its operational life.

The Spirit of Sonny rescue boat will be fully operational in the summer. Photo: York Rescue Boat (56921571)
The Spirit of Sonny rescue boat will be fully operational in the summer. Photo: York Rescue Boat (56921571)

The crew are undergoing full training before Spirit of Sonny becomes operational in the summer when an official naming and dedication ceremony will take place.

The boat is manned by unpaid volunteers and run through public donations.

Kate said the campaign had helped the family cope with their devastating loss and believes its positive legacy fits with their son’s character.

The Spirit of Sonny rescue boat has special modifications to help rive rescue. Photo: York Rescue Boat
The Spirit of Sonny rescue boat has special modifications to help rive rescue. Photo: York Rescue Boat

“It has been a lifesaver for all of us I think,” said Kate.

“We went up there after Sonny died to try and make sense of it and met some of the rescue team.

“They said they needed help and we wanted to do something positive that people could get behind so so some good would come out of this.

The Spirit of Sonny rescue boat is launched in memory of Ketton teenager Sonny Ferry. Photo: York Rescue Boat
The Spirit of Sonny rescue boat is launched in memory of Ketton teenager Sonny Ferry. Photo: York Rescue Boat

“Sonny was just a joy and it didn’t feel right to feel sad all the time.

“So we didn’t want to waste an opportunity to spread the sunshine.”

The fundraising page has reached £37,000, and although the boat has been bought, the target remains £45,000 to help buy important kit for the crew.

Fundraisers have so far included a 24-hour danceathon, a combined 500-mile cycle ride and climb of the Three Peaks, and a quiz held by Sonny’s former colleagues at the Stamford Post.

In Ketton, the school and church have raised around £1,000, and a firewalk was also held, while Sonny’s friends recently ran the Stamford Rat Race.

“For everyone that’s got involved, donated or arranged to do something, it’s been so life-affirming,” Kate added.

“You do wonder if this world is good enough for you to carry on, but then you reach out to people and you realise it is.”

Visit www.gofundme.com/the-sunshine-campaign to donate



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