Former teacher and inspirational founder of 2Wish charity expands into England

Former teacher and inspirational founder of 2Wish charity expands into England

Posted: 29th February 2024

On Tuesday the ever-inspiring Rhian Mannings joined us with her team from 2Wish to mark their official launch into England. For those not familiar with her story, Rhian was a teacher here at Queen’s around 20 years ago and, whilst here, was set up on a blind date with an OQ, Paul. The date was clearly very successful as they went on to get married, settle down in Wales, and have three children. Unfortunately, in 2012, their youngest son, George, died very suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of one. Rhian spoke movingly during assembly on Monday of how both her and Paul left the hospital hours later with nothing in the way of support as they struggled to come to terms with the terrible truth of his loss. And, sadly, it was only five days later that Rhian was informed by the police that Paul had taken his own life. 

Her story is an extraordinary and harrowing one, but what makes it most extraordinary of all is how she has turned this darkest of times into an offer of light and hope for so many others. She founded 2Wish in 2015 to support other families like hers in Wales so that they would not be left alone as she and her family had been left in their hour of need. Today 2Wish has supported almost 1500 families as they face the sudden loss of a young person and can now proudly boast that there is not a hospital or police force in Wales who will leave a family unsupported, offering the support of 2Wish within 48 hours of an incident. Now, with this mission achieved, 2Wish is expanding its work across the border into Wales’ neighbouring counties, including Somerset. 

As so much of the story of this charity started right here at Queen’s, Rhian wanted the first official fundraising event in England to take place here at the college with a cake sale. We were more than happy to oblige, although I’m not sure she quite anticipated our student’s generosity and taste for cake! She and her colleagues arrived with a car literally stuffed to the brim with cake confident that it would last the day – in the event it barely survived breaktime! Fortunately, a quick trip to Tesco saw another two tables worth demolished over lunchtime, raising over £500. Our students were incredible, overpaying for cakes and buying them for their friends and families. One student even baked gingerbread men for the occasion which sold out in no time. 

After this Rhian also wished to leave us with a gift and so, in a short ceremony, donated a bench and rose to the college for our memorial garden in memory of Paul and George. It was a really special moment with Mr Free (Rhian’s old boss!) speaking movingly of his memories of Paul as a student. 2Wish’s 6 foot tall elephant mascot, Gorgeous George, also made an appearance and received a lot of hugs as he became the first person (elephant?) to sit on the bench.

In the evening Mr Free, myself, our heads of school and some prefects made our way down to Musgrove Park hospital to help light almost 1500 tealights in a ceremony on the helipad. It was a special occasion as the sun went down, especially as some families whom 2Wish had supported came to watch and take part. 

All in all, and in spite of the story which created it, it was an incredibly special day with the best of Queen’s and humanity on full display. A poignant reminder that no matter how dark the world becomes the light of hope can never be extinguished.

Mr Free, Deputy Head (Pastoral), said “We are very proud to be associated with 2wish and with Rhian Mannings – an inspirational person and an important charity for families dealing with the unbearable grief of losing a child. Rhian’s story is one of tragedy and hope, courage and determination and a relentless drive to deliver a service to families and communities that was not there for her family at their time of greatest need.

Paul Burke was a pupil at Queen’s in the 1990s. A brilliant all round sportsman, a good and trusted friend to many and a committed father and husband. Rhian, his wife, was a PE teacher at Queen’s and even then it was clear that she had the energy and drive to succeed within education and indeed, in any field that she became involved in.
Their young family was devastated by the deaths, in the same week of George, their youngest son, and of Paul. Rhian’s response has been to found and then drive forward 2wish, initially in South Wales before going on to cover the whole of Wales and now to move across the bridge to the bordering English counties. We have no doubt that this expansion will be successful and we suspect that it will not stop there.”
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