Charity cricket day aims at memorial milestone for student

Medical student Neil Dalton, whose life inspired an incredible fundraising campaign by friends and family determined to carry on his legacy.
Medical student Neil Dalton, whose life inspired an incredible fundraising campaign by friends and family determined to carry on his legacy.

Friends and family of Neil Dalton will mark the third anniversary of his death this month with a community cricket day at Belper Amateurs’ ground in Alderwasley on Sunday, August 13.

They hope the occasion will also mark a huge milestone in the fundraising campaign inspired by Neil’s life.

Jamie Jones, a childhood friend and teammate of Neil’s, said: “We’re nearly at the £50,000 mark, after three years of events, and people doing all sorts of sponsored activities in his name.

“If we can raise £1,500 this time, we’ll be there. Hopefully the community will be as supportive as they always have been.”

Neil grew up in Ambergate, and was 22 years old at the time of his death.

A medical student at Newcastle University, he was on a hospital placement in Kuching, Borneo, and on his way home after a night out when he was attacked by a local man without provocation.

Jamie, 25, said: “People in Belper saw it on the news—friends and Neil’s old teams—and felt they had to do something in response to the tragedy.

“That’s how the first Neil’s Day came about in 2014, and everything else just followed on from there.”

He added: “Nothing can ever replace him and people are still deeply hurt, but making this into a positive story does help. Something good had to come from it.”

The campaign has been raising money for the Anthony Nolan Trust ever since.

The charity helps maintain the UK’s Stem Cell Register and supports lifesaving transplants for those who suffer from blood cancers or blood disorders.

Jamie said: “It’s something that Neil cared about. He raised money for them at university by doing a coast-to-coast bike ride.

“We want to carry on his legacy, and just keep pushing it forward as far as we can.”

The annual cricket day is organised by Belper Amateurs, Neil’s home club, with help a group of friends including Jamie, and Oliver and Billy Deeming.

Jamie said: “It’s brought us all closer together working on this, I think Neil would be proud, but also a bit embarrassed by how much attention we’re giving it.

“He was such an unassuming man he wouldn’t have expected so much effort, but deep down I think he’d be proud of what we’re doing, and proud of his family who have been a beacon of strength to us all.”

This year’s tournament will feature five teams: Ambergate, a Belper Amateurs XI, Belper Meadows XI and a Newcastle University XI, and two-time winners Neil’s XI.

While the day offers a chancefor Neil’s loved ones to celebrate his life, it is also open to spectators and anyone who wants to show their support.

Jamie said: “It’s generally a feelgood event to remember our friend. We try to make it a positive atmosphere with live music, and things for children like face painting, games and special chocolate bars.”

The cricket will begin at 10am and continue through to 5pm, when players will retire to the club house for a performances by local bands such as the Sunflower Thieves until 7.30pm.

A barbecue, cake sale and raffle will be running all day, with proceeds going to the charity, and the top prize of a VIP day for two at Lords.

A representative from the Anthony Nolan Trust will be on hand offering an opportunity to join the donor register.

Jamie said: “I want to thank all the local businesses who have been incredibly generous. I’m always amazed by how much support we get.

“It shows how highly thought of Neil was. The tributes that people come out with really are a measure of the man.”

n To donate to the fundraising campaign, go to http://bit.ly/2w3erbP. For event details, visit http://bit.ly/2uWlUsX.