Friend pays tribute to popular fitness instructor who died after a fall

The best friend of a popular fitness instructor from Sunderland who tragically died after a fall has paid tribute to her describing her as “the life and soul of the party”.

Natalie Ridell, affectionately known as ‘Mac’, was just 35 when she tragically died following a fall in September last year leaving her family and friends devastated.

The much-loved PT was a SkinnyPigs instructor and had only been married for just over two years when her life was cut short.

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Now Natalie’s best friend, Sarah Callaghan, 36, is hoping to raise money for a memorial bench that will provide a permanent place for her friends, family and all those whose lives she touched, to visit and remember her.

Sarah, who is a mathematics curriculum manager from Teal Park Farm, said: “Natalie was the life and soul of the party, and we have so many amazing memories of times spent with her.

“Natalie meant so much to so many people.

“When she tragically left this world for a better place, many of us began to understand the true meaning of heartbreak.”

Sarah hopes that by creating a place where people can reflect on Natalie’s life, it will allow people to mourn her friend whose funeral and wake was restricted due to the pandemic.

Natalie Ridell's life was cut short when she died following a fall in September last year
Natalie Ridell’s life was cut short when she died following a fall in September last year

The engaged mum-of-two said: “Many of her friends and family have talked about wanting to remember her forever.

“This would be a great opportunity for all who knew Natalie to have a memorial place to visit when they feel they need to talk to her or to be close to her, or to do their thing to remember her in their way.

“Ideally, we’d have liked to organise a charity event to raise money to secure a memorial bench at Mac’s beloved seafront.

“However, Covid has made that really difficult. So, in the meantime, as there is a long waiting list for memorial benches, we are trying to raise the money needed for this so that we can join the list.”

Sarah, who was friends with Natalie from childhood, hopes that if she is able to raise the amount needed to fund the bench she can host a ‘celebration of life’ party for friends and family.

This would give loved ones the chance to remember Natalie together and give their beloved Mac the send-off they were unable to, due to tight Covid restrictions in place at the time.

Sarah said: “We’d love to raise enough to fund this bench and to bring all of those who loved her together to raise a glass and celebrate her life.

“She meant so much to so many, so it would be lovely to have a place by the sea to remember all the great memories we packed into her short life.”

Sarah is hoping to raise £2,850 to fund a memorial bench and launched a Gofundme Page, which raised more than £1,000 within hours of being set up.

The current total stands just short of £2,000 with many people paying tribute to Mac.

Sarah said: “So many people loved Mac. When she died, hundreds of friends reached out to me and her friends to share their memories of her. We hope that – by creating a permanent place for people to site and remember her – we can help everyone celebrate the fantastic memories they made with her.”

To make a donation to Sarah’s fundraising campaign in memory of Natalie, you can do so here.

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Chronicle Live – Sunderland