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Family's £6700 donation to Highland Hospice after fundraising darts tournament

By Alan Hendry

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Abbie Thain (left) presenting the cheque to Highland Hospice fundraiser Emma Nicol, along with (from left) Hannah MacKenzie, Lauren Pirie (holding Willow) and Ellie Thain. Picture: James Mackenzie
Abbie Thain (left) presenting the cheque to Highland Hospice fundraiser Emma Nicol, along with (from left) Hannah MacKenzie, Lauren Pirie (holding Willow) and Ellie Thain. Picture: James Mackenzie

North teenager Abbie Thain was devastated when her much-loved auntie died of cancer – so she came up with the idea of a fundraising darts tournament in her memory.

It has resulted in more than £6700 being handed over to Highland Hospice, where a year ago Abbie's aunt Elaine MacKenzie spent her final weeks.

Abbie was helped by her mum Claire Thain and Claire's other sisters, Shona Walker and Liz Ronaldson. They say they are proud of Abbie for instigating the fundraising effort and are grateful to everyone who contributed to it.

Claire said: “Abbie looks at her aunties as her best friends, really. It was Abbie that kicked it off and it was a family event in the end.”

Elaine (née Sinclair), who lived at North Kessock, passed away in the hospice in Inverness on October 29 last year. She was 64.

Twelve days earlier, Elaine had married her long-term fiancé Norman MacKenzie.

“She was lucky enough to get a place really quickly in the hospice and she actually got married there," Claire explained. "After 45 years' engagement, they got married.”

The fundraising event was held at the Seaforth Highlanders' Club in Wick on September 9 with support from Arthur Bruce, who is one of the organisers of the town's annual Friends of the Glass darts competition along with Claire and Liz.

Businesses and family members were generous in sponsoring dartboards, while money also came from a raffle, a bottle stall and a baking stall.

"Friends of the Glass put up all the prize money, so every penny we got donated then actually went to the charity," Claire pointed out. “Close family and friends helped out on the day.”

Shona added: “We are proud of Abbie for coming up with the idea. We'd also like to say how appreciative we are of the people who donated and helped us raise the money.”

Elaine was the oldest of the four sisters. Claire (47) and Shona (63) live in Wick, while Liz (54) is seven miles away in Keiss.

After a brief stay in Raigmore Hospital, Elaine spent a fortnight being cared for in the hospice.

Claire said: “When Elaine was taken into the hospice, she didn't want to be left alone at all so there was always somebody with her, 24 hours a day, and the hospice was quite happy to allow that to happen. One of us or two of us were there for the two weeks she was in the hospice.

“I don't know what we would have done without the hospice. They're really over the moon about the amount of money raised."

Elaine's sisters remember her as full of fun.

“We used to have so many laughs," Shona said. "She was a very happy-go-lucky person. The four of us just always had fun together.

“Abbie was very, very close to her auntie Elaine. She was just devastated, so that's what she wanted to do for her.”

Liz said: "We were overwhelmed with the local support of darts players and non-darts players and we even had players travel north from the Inverness area."

Family members visited the hospice on Monday to present the cheque for £6728.

Highland Hospice fundraiser Emma Nicol said: "Thank you so very much to all of Elaine's family, particularly young Abbie who came up with such a wonderful idea, Claire and her sisters for pulling it all together so well and all the businesses and individuals in the Caithness community who supported the event so generously.

"To raise more than £6000 from a darts tournament is honestly incredible, and will really help us to provide for the individuals and communities across the whole of the Highlands who rely on our care and support."

Abbie will be 17 at the end of this month. She was joined at the cheque handover by her sister Ellie Thain (20) and Elaine's two daughters, Lauren Pirie (33) and Hannah MacKenzie (30), as well as Elaine's two-year-old granddaughter Willow Pirie.

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