YOUNG British sailors and high-profile guests celebrated the launch of a charity dedicated to the memory of gifted university student Olivia Burt from Milford.
The charity, called Olivia Inspires, was officially launched by the Nigel and Paula Burt during a reception at Lymington Town Sailing Club last Thursday, as a lasting legacy to their daughter Olivia, who was tragically killed in an accident outside a Durham nightclub last year.
The special event also featured an auction of money-can’t-buy experiences which raised more than £7,000 to help disadvantaged New Forest children and teenagers reach their potential.
Guests included the High Sheriff of Hampshire Sarah Le May, Lady Mary Montagu Scott, Sir Desmond Swayne MP and Deputy Lieutenant of Hampshire Hallam Mills.
A former pupil of Milford Primary School, who went on to become head girl at Bournemouth School for Girls, Olivia was also a talented sportswoman who sailed internationally, representing Great Britain in various youth classes.
Sharing his memories of Olivia, Nigel said: “Olivia was academically gifted. She also enjoyed music, playing the clarinet and saxophone, and like so many young people in this area she took to the water in an Optimist dinghy at a very young age. She was a member of Great Britain squads in three classes of dinghy and represented our country at two European championships.
He continued: “Olivia’s achievements, academic, sporting and in music, impressive as they are, pale alongside the fact that she was simply a good and nice person – much undervalued qualities in the world today.”
Nigel said that during her short life Olivia had inspired many others to reach their potential and strive to achieve what seemed impossible at first glance.
Her friend Sam Whaley, a member of the British Sailing Team from Swanage, told how it was meeting Olivia that first inspired him to pursue sailing seriously.
He said: “I was a great friend of Olivia and she really changed my life because had I not meet Olivia and been encouraged by her I definitely would not be where I am now.
“Today I am lucky enough to be in the British Sailing Team – and for me that journey really started with Olivia on the day we met. She was one of my best friends in sailing, she encouraged and inspired me.”
Chinese Olympic gold medal winning sailor Xu Lijia, who is known as Lily, was also at the launch event along with Olivia’s close friend Hannah Snellgrove, the three-time national Laser Radial champion.
Nigel told guests it was Olivia’s kindness and ambition which had been the inspiration for the new charity. It will support young people aged 11 to 18 whose families live in the New Forest District Council and are experiencing financial hardship.
He said: “In setting up Olivia Inspires we wanted to do something to encourage young people in the New Forest to realise their potential in STEM – science, technology, engineering and maths – the arts and sport, the fields that Olivia particularly enjoyed.
“This could be to buy equipment such as a musical instrument, pay for sports coaching or attend a science summer school – the list is endless.”
“We have been touched by people’s willingness to support Olivia Inspires. Perhaps this is because Olivia was so well known and loved by so many of you; perhaps because of the awfulness of the tragedy that befell Olivia and Paula and I as Olivia’s parents; perhaps because of the need for a charity like Olivia Inspires. Most likely it is for all of these reasons.”
High Sheriff of Hampshire Sarah Le May revealed that the new charity held a personal connection for her to her family because her son is currently a second year student at Durham and many of his friends, including his girlfriend, knew Olivia and attended lectures with her.
She said: “This is a cause very close to my heart personally as well in my role as High Sheriff.”
“The death of a child is every parent’s worst nightmare but to paraphrase what Aldous Huxley said, experience isn’t what happens to you, it is what you do with the experience that matters, and I think we can see that tonight. We can see how people have used an experience and made it into something positive.”
“We hear that this charity will make grants to young people that will make an enormous difference to those young people’s lives.”
“We all want to know that when we give to a charity it will make a difference. We live in an affluent county but there are definitely those who don’t have the funds to give their children the opportunities and the chances that can transform their futures.”
The evening concluded with an auction of exclusive lots, including a tour of a nuclear submarine hosted by a serving rear admiral; three paddock passes for the 2020 British Grand Prix; dinner for 10 at Palace House Beaulieu; a cricket bat signed by the England and Pakistan sides in 2019; a make-your-own-perfume consultation with New Forest Aromatics; and a day of sailing coaching from Olympic legends Penny Clark and Ali Young.
In total the evening raised more than £7,000 that will be awarded to young people from across the New Forest. Further fundraising events and auctions are currently being planned to support the charity including a fell race in the Mendips; a jazz concert; a 100-mile cycle ride and a lunch in Milford.
Nigel concluded: “If anything is going to help us come to terms with the incomprehensibility of what has happened to Olivia and bring meaning back into our lives, then it is to make a success of Olivia Inspires and help as many young people in the New Forest as possible.”
“So if any of you have any ideas how you could help us raise funds for Olivia Inspires please let us know.”
For more information on Olivia Inspires, or to donate or apply for a grant, visit www.oliviainspires.org.uk