A Preston model has taken part in a skydive to honour her mum and raise funds for St Catherine’s Hospice.Advertisement
Alongside brother Luca, Nina Di Niro has followed in her fearless mum’s footsteps by raising £5,000 for the charity in her memory.
The pair were inspired to support the hospice and organised date nights for their mum Vijya and dad Giovanni, a birthday party and a wedding blessing.
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Nina said: “Mamma was all about living life to the full. She was always up a mountain or out at a bar. She was a social butterfly, and she had friends everywhere!
“She had a bucket list that included doing a skydive, so Luca told her he would do one for her, and they persuaded me to do it as well. We feel like following in her footsteps; she is definitely our inspiration, and I know she would be really proud of us for trying new experiences.
“Her advice to us was to always be kind and live our best lives, so that’s what we’re doing.”
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Vijya, who worked in HR for Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service before joining the team at the University of Central Lancashire in 2020, started feeling unwell in June last year when she collapsed at home.
She was later admitted to the hospital for pneumonia in December, and during a routine scan, doctors discovered kidney cancer, which had spread to her lungs and lymph nodes.
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Nina said: “I didn’t realise how poorly she was. Two weeks before being diagnosed with cancer, she’d done the National Three Peaks Challenge – she was still so active – so I was shocked. I hadn’t realised we were looking at end-of-life care.
“I was worried because I expected it to be a sad environment, but it was truly amazing. Mamma didn’t want to be looked after at home because she didn’t want it to become a sad place. We couldn’t have asked for a better place for her to be. When I first visited her at St Catherine’s, she looked the best I’d seen her in a while. She was so happy and comfortable.
“The care was next level, and the staff would do everything they could for us. We always used to have Di Niro Date Nights on a Tuesday, so they helped us re-create that. They set up a table on the gorgeous grounds with roses in a vase. They dyed Mamma’s hair, and she had lovely lipstick and perfume on.
“Papa is a chef, so he cooked the meal at home and brought it in, and she wanted my mash potato, so I brought that. It was her 46th birthday while she was in the hospice, and we had a small party for her in the gardens with balloons, prosecco and cake, which she really enjoyed.
“She got it in her mind that she wanted her and Papa to renew their wedding vows – there’s a beautiful pergola in the grounds, and she mentioned it would be a lovely setting for a wedding. She said she wanted to show Papa how much she loved him; he knew already, but it was important to her, and the hospice made arrangements for a chaplain to come in for the ceremony.
“All four of us got wooden rings for the blessing. Papa is Italian, and they don’t have metal wedding rings. It was a way for my brother and me to be part of the occasion as well. It was about us as a family and was really special.”
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Vijya spent two weeks in St Catherine’s and died peacefully on July 16, just days after her birthday party and wedding ceremony.
Luca and his friend Jake Whitlock decided to do the skydive to help the charity and convinced Nina to join them. Family friends, who run Skydive Northwest in Grange-over-Sands, offered the trio the chance to do the jumps free of charge, so they could focus on raising sponsorship for the hospice.
Nina, 24, said: “We weren’t nervous at all about the skydive on the day because we were just so excited to be doing something which Mamma would love and be proud of and support the hospice.
“It was an amazing experience; I felt like I was flying, and I just felt so close to her at that moment. It was a really nice feeling. I also completed the Pretty Mudder Race for Life obstacle challenge that weekend as Mamma use to do it every year.
“We’re looking forward to having more adventures in the future in Mamma’s memory and give something back to St Catherine’s to thank them for going above and beyond for our family.”
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Vijya’s friends organised a fitness-themed fundraiser in her memory earlier this month, called #BeMoreVij. They took part in three of her favourite activities, including a 90-minute exercise class, cycling the Guild Wheel, and a six-mile walk.
Emily Bate, community engagement officer at St Catherine’s Hospice, said: “We’d like to say a very big thank you to Nina, Luca and Jake – along with Vijya’s fitness-loving friends and everyone who’s sponsored them – for their incredible support!
“Her family and friends have already raised such a fantastic amount for our cause, and we’re thrilled to hear that more challenges could be in the pipeline.
“As an independent local charity, we depend on the generosity and efforts of our communities to enable us to continue providing our specialist palliative and end-of-life care. We look after the issues that make all the difference to families like the Di Niros.”
To donate to Nina’s fundraiser, visit- https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/luca-di-niro
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