“It’s been a very difficult journey for us as a family over the last year.”
Last May, Claire Booth, 35, her 13-year-old daughter Hollie and Claire’s sister Kelly Brewster went to see Ariana Grande in concert at the Manchester Arena.
Tragically, it became the scene of one of the UK’s worst terror attacks, claiming the lives of 22 people – including Kelly.
“My own injuries were quite minor, and I was fine after a few months,” Claire said.
“But Hollie was left severely injured as a result of the attack… and my sister sadly lost her life.”
Practical help at a difficult time
While trying to cope with the loss of her sister, Claire had to stay strong for Hollie, who had a number of broken bones and internal injuries.
“The NHS were great,” Claire said.
“We had discussions with them and among ourselves about what would be needed to help get her back up and functioning again in terms of her day-to-day life.”
It was then that Claire heard about the British Red Cross’ mobility aids teams in Greater Manchester and Yorkshire.
The Red Cross was offering short-term loans of wheelchairs and other mobility aids for those affected. So we were able to deliver a self-propelled wheelchair to Hollie at Manchester Children’s Hospital.
“We would have been lost without the Red Cross and their help,” said Claire.
“As well as the wheelchair, they provided bath boards and a toilet frame. These helped her with practical things like getting in and out of the bath and shower.”
Kindness in action
Following the attacks, Manchester – and the world – stood together in solidarity to help the victims.
British Red Cross staff and more than 80 volunteers worked around the clock to support the families and friends of those tragically killed or injured.
Manchester City Council and the Red Cross also launched the We Love Manchester Emergency Fund. With support from Manchester Evening News, it raised almost £21m for people who were injured or bereaved.
But it wasn’t just the Red Cross and other agencies who answered the call to help those caught up in the tragedy.
“There were people who came out on the night who tended to the victims by wrapping them in curtains, taxi drivers offering people lifts wherever they wanted to go,” Claire shared.
“We’d travelled over to Manchester from Sheffield just for the concert and were several weeks there with only what we had with us.
“People brought us care packages and pyjamas… They took time out of their own lives to help us.
“In terms of the help provided by the people of Manchester and beyond – and their generosity in giving to the Fund – there just aren’t enough words to thank them.”
Hollie is dancing again
“Dancing has always been Hollie’s passion,” said Claire. “From a very young age Hollie loved to dance and joined her local dance school Dance Daze in 2014.”
A few months after the attack, Hollie was keen to dance again.
“There are 11 of us who perform together,” said Hollie. “I started going to dance school with my cousin but I’ve made lots of friends there since.
“Dance has always been a massive part of my life and I didn’t want that to stop because of what happened to me.
“For the last couple of years we’ve been talking about auditioning for Britain’s Got Talent – one of the country’s best-known TV entertainment shows.
“We all performed a set wheelchair dance for our Christmas show. Our choreographer had the idea to perform the same routine to audition for the current series of the show.
“At first it looked like we might not be able to get enough wheelchairs for all of us in time for the audition.
“So I was relieved when the Red Cross told us we’d be able to get them.
“The Red Cross has made a massive difference to me and my life over the last year – I really wouldn’t have been able to manage without them.”
A dream come true
Hollie and Dance Daze wowed the judges with their performance on the show.
With four ‘yesses’ from the judges, they will go on to the next round of competition. From there, they will find out if they are through to the semi-final stage.
“I was really nervous before I went in the audition and didn’t want anyone to talk to me!” Hollie said. “But after we got started, I was fine.”
“I was really glad that we were able to attend the audition and that the extra wheelchairs we were given meant my friends could get on stage and perform with me.
Now approaching the one-year anniversary of the Manchester attacks, events are being planned to mark the milestone in the city.
As Hollie and her loved ones prepare for the deliberation stage of the competition, they’re now looking to the future.
“It would have been very easy for Hollie to become down and depressed and refuse to carry on with her life,” Claire said.
“But dancing is her passion and she was determined to continue doing what she loved.
“I’m so proud of what she’s achieved and we’re all backing RISE all the way”
If you have been affected by the Manchester Arena attacks and need advice and support, including help on dealing with the anniversary, visit the Manchester Attacks Support website.
- Support the We Love Manchester Emergency Fund
- Borrow a wheelchair from the Red Cross
- How your support helps people affected by the attack
This blog was written by Rachael Dry, media relations officer for the British Red Cross