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Sam's memory lives on at Tranmere

28 August 2012

By Tony Dewhurst

Sam Bencheikh's life was a short one, but a rich life that continues to touch so many people in the Wirral community.

Sam was a voluntary coach for Tranmere Rovers' Football in the Community scheme, visiting schools to coach children and working with the disabled, when he was killed in a car accident in July 2004.

Following his death, aged 18, his family and Tranmere's Community scheme - led by community development officer Steve Williams - set up the Sam Bencheikh Memorial Fund.

"When we lost Sam the last thing we thought about doing was anything like this, because we were dealing with so much grief," said Sam's mother Sue.

"I suppose we hid ourselves away for a couple of years, but slowly we were dragged out by the fund's work, which has meant so much to the family."

When the Bencheikh family requested that people made financial donations in Sam's memory instead of flowers, Sue, her husband Az and daughter Nadia decided to donate the money to Tranmere's Community Scheme.

"When Steve Williams came back to us and said they wanted to hold a football festival for children with a variety of disabilities in Sam's name we were very proud," recalled Sue.

"We thought it would be a most fitting tribute to Sam because he loved working at Tranmere.

"Sam believed that anyone, whatever their circumstances, should be able to enjoy and participate in the sport they love.

"Sam's loss is still as painful, but we've been doing something to help those kids Sam loved working with and it is continuing the community work I think he would have been involved with."

Sam's memorial fund has proved a remarkable legacy to a much-loved son and brother, with the fund helping finance two coaches to work in the community, assisting disabled adults and children play football, and buying new kit and furniture for the community scheme.

"The money from the fund has enabled us to carry on the good work we were doing and expand it," said Steve.

"We've always had a community project, but we never had a special officer to do disability work - it was always on an ad hoc basis alongside our other community work.

"Sam was a special lad and it is great honour for Tranmere to remember him in this way."

Despite the family's loss, Sue's bravery has remained unstinting, determined to honour Sam's memory and show that no disability should be a barrier for anyone who wants to take part in football.

"Sam was a wonderful young man and there are no words that I know in life to describe the absolute depth of despair and heartache I experience every single day," she added.

"Sometimes I've wanted to stop, but Steve and the community team at Tranmere Rovers have always given us a reason to continue and that gives you great strength.

"It is not about recognition, it is all about giving something back to those who don't have very much in life.

"What has happened since 2005, when Sam's fund was first set up, has helped so many people.

"I wish it wasn't us, of course I do, but in Sam's name Tranmere have been able to do so much good work in the community, especially for the disabled.

"With the help of the community scheme, hopefully this can be Tranmere Rovers' lasting legacy from Sam."

With Sue's support, Tranmere are set to launch a DVD and educational package, called Sam's Story, which will highlight the danger of road safety.

"Sue has been into several schools on the Wirral and it is hard to give the full picture of what it is like, when you see 500 sixth formers in total silence listening to Sue speak about her loss - it is something that will live with me forever," added Steve.

"It gets harder and harder for her each time she does that, so now we will have an educational officer who will deliver the DVD presentation with Sue's message on it.

"But, hopefully, it will continue to hit home and can save a few people."

The Wirral community are reminded of Sam's contribution every day - his name is carried on the side of the scheme's mini bus as they continue to strengthen their ties with the community.

"I don't want any other family to go through what we went through," said Sue.

"Many youngsters drive fast cars and don't realise the dangers they are putting themselves in.

"You can feel invincible at that age, but in a heartbeat a life can be ended."

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