Inspiration

Foundation keeps a sister’s memory alive

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After losing a loved one it, we all have different ways of keeping their memory alive. For 22-year-old Kate Fitzsimons, losing her older sister Nicole spurred her to establish a foundation that would fund activities that had been dear to Nicole’s heart.

Nicole Fitzsimons was an aspiring journalist who loved life to the fullest. Everyday was lived as if it were her last. She enjoyed sport, dancing and providing support to others around her to the best of her ability. “She was one of those people you could always turn to at any hour of the day and she would always give you that speech about always following your heart and your passions,” said Kate.

Landing a job as a sports journalist on Channel Nine’s ‘The Footy Show’, Nicole was a shinning light destined for big things and a bright future. She also had a boyfriend who she had plans to marry and a family who loved her dearly.

But while holidaying in Thailand, Nicole and her boyfriend, Jamie Keith, were in a horrific motorbike collision with another rider travelling at 80km/hr just metres from their hotel. Nicole was tragically killed, leaving Jamie with the task of making the saddest phone call of his life.

 

Following the tragedy of losing Nicole, her loving family created a trust fund that would raise money to go towards things that Nicole loved and was passionate about, such as sponsoring a ballet student. The trust fund eventually grew into the Nicole Fitzsimons Foundation, allowing Nicole’s life to be commemorated in the light it deserves. “We couldn’t let her down without taking on that same kind of fearless attitude and bring something positive from such an unfair tragedy,” Kate said.

Kate Fitzsimons also began researching the dangers facing Australian tourists overseas. She found that the number of Australians dying overseas in similar ways to her sister to was shockingly high.

She wanted to make a change, and started campaigning about the issue, with her message often leaving her audiences moved to tears. She waved goodbye to her corporate career so that she could whole-heartedly promote safe travel.

“I’m only one voice but I’m going to make it as loud as I can and try and make it travel as wide and as far as I can,” Kate Said.

Kate now travels around Australia giving free presentations to senior school students who are preparing for their own schoolies trips and adventures abroad. As she travels she carries her sister’s legacy along with her. She reminds these students of the potential dangers of spiked drinks and road accidents along with emphasising the importance of travel insurance.  “Everyone has a loved one that they don’t want to lose to an accident that could have been prevented had they known otherwise,” Kate said.

The Nicole Fitzsimons Foundation not only provides these voluntary presentations but also works to help develop the hopes and ambitions of others. This aspect of the foundation was established to maintain Nicole’s joy and love of helping others around her. The foundation provides small grants of up to $15,000 to those who have the drive and ambition but are disadvantaged by financially difficulty, physical disabilities or a range of other challenges.

For Kate however, her main role is to be the voice of reason for the students who think that schoolies is a place to break rules and take life-threatening risks. The combination of her heartbreaking story, her empowering message and her young age makes her far from that authoritive figure students tend to ignore. She is not just another face on the news.

The students’ reactions also help her to remain strong and determined. “I get such a priceless feeling from being able to share my sisters stories and seeing the faces of the students and how moved they are by what I’m saying,” she said.

The Nicole Fitzsimons Foundation is independently funded and does not receive any government grants. Kate Fitzsimons works hard to ensure that this foundation remains a long-term charity to ensure that more Australians return home safely. She shared her tips with The Business Woman for anyone else who is looking to start their own foundation or charity in honour of a loved one who has passed away.

 

Have the passion

If you have an important message or story, share it! If you feel that a foundation would honour your loved one then go for it. You need to remember the significance of you’re loved on and the importance they had on the life of others. By beginning a foundation their message will be continued touching the lives of others.  “If you have the passion for it and the love for that person then let nothing hold you back,” Kate said.

 

Ask for help

Register your charity and get a law firm on side. The Nicole Fitzsimons Foundation became a registered charity last year earning legitimacy having the ability to turn their foundation into a more business-like foundation. A law firm worked with the foundation at the start to ensure they were heading in the correct direction. Remember it’s hard work to start a foundation.  “You’ve got to be willing to put in the hard yards. If you’ve got that passion for it you won’t fail, but be patient it’s a working progress,” said Kate

 

Make it personal and get involved

Kate makes it her priority to respond to every message she receives. She uses social media as a tool to ensure that students feel they can turn to her for advice after her presentations. It’s important to get involved with those who are supporting you and are willing to listen. For Kate, her way of ensuring the students feel connected is to take a photo at every school she visits. The members of the class she presents to will take a photograph with her holding up their hands in shape of a love heart which is a reference to the foundation’s logo.

“Make it as personal as you can. I read every single message that students write,” said Kate.

 

Don’t neglect your grief

It’s hard to stay strong and be resilient as beginning a foundation in memory of your loved one will lead you to possible suppressed memories due to grief. Chanel any grief into something positive just like Kate did. It can be used as a source of strength to help lift you up.  “I don’t think you should ever cripple your pain or pretend its not there,” Kate Said.

To Donate or find out more about The Nicole Fitzsimons Foundation visit: http://www.nicolefitzsimons.com/

 

About Lauren Robinson

A Journalist at The Business Woman, Lauren has a solid passion for the world of writing. Previously working with Fairfax Regional Media and Bauer Media Group Lauren loves beauty, entertainment, lifestyle and human-interest stories.

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