When Tanya and Simon Brown lost their kind-hearted son Connor in the most shocking and horrific way, they were consumed by grief.
Connor was trying to protect others when he was stabbed and killed in February 2019 near Sunderland’s Gatsby’s pub at just 18 years old. And while his death devastated his loved ones, his parents vowed to follow in his footsteps in trying to help and protect others by setting up a trust in his name.
And one year ago, the Connor Brown Trust was set up with the aim of raising awareness of knife crime and steering young people away from violent incidents. His parents channelled their grief into talking with young people about the dangers of carrying a knife and the consequences it can have on their lives and the lives of others.
His mum Tanya said: “What we hoped for when setting up the trust was to be given the opportunities to engage with young people in the hope they would listen to us and how knife crime can destroy families’ lives as a whole, how it affects communities and how their own life would be affected by it if they were to carry a knife. And we have achieved that.
“We have held many youth group workshops engaging with a wide diversity of young people. We have had some incredible feedback from our sessions where the young people have listened and taken on board what we have discussed, which has given their youth worker the ability to help and engage the young person to change their mindset and encourage them to become positive members of society.
“We wanted to be recognised as a trusted organisation that has the best interests of everyone in our hearts. All we do is for the safety and well-being of everyone, everything we raise in terms of fundraising is put back into the community in some way. Our youth today is our future tomorrow and we want to help our youth make a difference in the communities they live in and create a positive future for themselves.
“We are still overwhelmed by the support we receive every single day, and we greatly appreciate every single person. We feel the year has gone by so quickly, yet we have achieved so much in that time. When we first began, we talked about doing educational workshops at some point never did I expect them to be up and running and established within the first year.”
Tanya said her proudest moment so far was when they were given the opportunity to sponsor the Jill Scott Trophy which encourages girls to play football. She said: “For us is just amazing. Connor was a huge sports fanatic as everyone knows so being part of the sponsorship that encourages girls to play football and be recognised for their efforts is just amazing, and we wish all the girls involved in this award the best of luck, and we will be there to support them towards the end.”
An award was also launched in Connor’s name which is given out in schools to children in recognition of their physical activities. This year the award was given out at New Silksworth Academy, East Herrington Academy and Farringdon Academy.
Tanya said: “We decided to have an honorary award in Connor’s name which would be in recognition for all physical activities. We piloted the award to select schools this year and we hope more schools will want to be a part of it next year. The award itself is an exact replica of the award Connor was awarded for special recognition after his death at the NHS awards.
“We asked the select schools to nominate a child/young person who has shone in all physical activities. Not for those who win and are extremely confident in their own personal abilities but for those who will go that extra step, for those who will always put others first and work as part of a team, for those who will always put in 100% effort and be proud of their own achievements.”
The trust’s next goal is to raise £9,000 so that 40 bleed kits can be fitted and installed across Sunderland including in the city centre, Washington and beyond.
Tanya said: “These kits are designed to control catastrophic bleeding and can make that difference between life and death in the event of any type of accident or act of violence. All kits will be registered to the ambulance service, and the caller will be directed to the nearest unit and directed on how to use the kit until emergency services arrive, they really are a lifesaving piece of equipment.”
The trust has also been successful so far in its application to have the Knife Angel come to Sunderland in October 2023 and they are “delighted” to be part of the Knife Angel’s tour around the UK.
Reflecting on their achievements over the last year, Tanya said Connor would be “really proud” of the work they are doing in his memory and said he is “guiding them through” and gives them “the strength they need” to continue.
Tanya said: “I do think Connor would be really proud of the work we are doing in his memory. He was a huge part of many people’s lives and through the trust, he will continue to be a part of people’s lives. Connor enjoyed being the centre of attention at times and he would love to know people still speak his name and carry him in their hearts wherever they go.
“As for us on a personal note, I believe Connor is guiding us through and he gives us the strength we need to continue in our work as it is the right thing to do. Connor was a caring soul with a heart of gold and helping children and young people choose the right path was something he would have done as I know he helped a few friends when they needed guidance.
“I would like to thank everyone who continues to support us every day as we couldn’t do it without you. You have all been our guiding light through many dark stages since Connor’s death and we will be forever grateful to you all. Thank you.”
You can keep up to date on the Connor Brown Trust through the Facebook page here.