Community mourns girl with a ‘heart of gold’

A BRIDE-TO-BE who died on her wedding day is the subject of a campaign to pay for her funeral.

Sophie Chander, 21, lost her battle with leukaemia at St Richard’s Hospital, in Chichester, on Friday, November 1.

Sylvia Chandler with her son Richard and wife Jess with Charlie, three. Picture by Kate Shemilt C131521-3

Sylvia Chandler with her son Richard and wife Jess with Charlie, three. Picture by Kate Shemilt C131521-3

Friends held a charity football match last weekend to raise money in her memory.

Sophie’s mother, Sylvia, said her daughter had a ‘heart of gold’ and would go to any length to help someone.

“She was so strong, she kept me strong,” she added.

Sophie found out she was ill in January of this year, when she was living in Ireland with her one-year-old daughter Lily.

In July, she visited her mother, who lives in Ruskin Avenue, Bognor Regis, to surprise her for her 50th birthday and told the family she was in remission.

However, she went into St Richard’s in September.

On Thursday, October 31, she was told she had days to live, and Sophie’s wish was she could marry her boyfriend Jason Mariner.

An appeal was put out on Facebook by friends and family asking for anything in burgundy and cream – Sophie’s chosen colours – in which she could get married.

Within minutes, people had provided everything she needed.

However Sophie died in the early hours of Friday.

“She would have got married that day she died,” said Sylvia.

A funeral has been set for Monday at the crematorium in Chichester, where Sophie is set to be cremated in her wedding clothes.

However, before it can go ahead around £3,000 needs to be paid up front.

Sylvia said her daughter was mad about the X Factor and was ‘over the moon’ when she met last year’s winner James Arthur earlier this year.

She had a framed picture of them together and a second picture which he said was for ‘his future wife’.

“It was her prized possession,” said Sylvia.

Sylvia’s friend Debbie Rawlinson, of Mumford Place, Chichester, has supported Sylvia in the past few weeks.

She said her friend was an ‘amazing mum’, having had to deal with Sophie’s cancer, while looking after her 18-year-old daughter Tiffani, who is severely disabled and attends Fordwater School.

Born in St Richard’s Hospital on February 10, 1992, Sophie also had two brothers, Richard, 29, and Stephen, 26.

She attended a number of primary schools including St James’ in Chichester, Kingsham and Midhurst.

She went to secondary school and sixth form at Felpham Community College.

Debbie added her friend’s daughter was ‘lovely, absolutely lovely’.

“Up to the very end she thought of everybody else.”

Sylvia said her daughter had always wanted to be a mum and her dream had come true when her daughter Lily was born in Ireland on November 29, 2011, only a few months before Sophie was diagnosed.

When Sophie came over in the summer, Lily stayed behind with her dad, as Sophie was only supposed to be staying for a couple of weeks, but she never went back.

Rainbow appears at fundraising match

A RAINBOW lit up the Whyke Estate at the weekend, as football players took to the field in memory of Sophie.

An all-women charity football match was organised at short notice by Kylie Rawlinson, 31, who had known Sophie since she was born.

“She was just really funny, always thinking of others, even on her death bed,” she said.

The Whyke community has rallied round in support of Sophie and there is fundraising going on throughout the area.

Kylie’s mum Debbie Rawlinson, of Mumford Place on the estate, is one of Sylvia’s closest friends.

“Days like this the community really stick together,” she said.

“It’s brilliant. Even people that don’t live around here are helping.”

“It’s amazing,” said Sylvia of the generosity of the Whyke community.

A crowd gathered to watch the game around 2.30pm and people placed bets on the game, bought refreshments and made donations – all to raise money.

Debbie and Sylvia thanked Kevin and Penny Massey, who let their house on the Whyke Estate be used for players and supporters alike.

“They don’t even know us, but they did teas and coffees. That’s brilliant for them to do that.”

Whyke United donated kits to both teams and someone from the club was on hand to referee and make sure everything ran smoothly.

Both shops on the Whyke Estate, Mace and Premier, have had collecting pots out for people to donate.

There’s also a fundraising tabletop fair at Kingsham Primary School on Saturday, from 1pm to 4pm, where Sophie was a former pupil.

There will be an auction, which will include a football-themed donation.

Portsmouth Football Club have donated a pair of tickets to a home match the following weekend against Scunthorpe to be sold in aid of the funeral.

Sylvia also said a local musician, named Adam Turner, was writing a song in memory of Sophie.

The community desperately hopes to raise all the money needed for the funeral to take place on Monday.

The family said they were surprised and grateful for the number of people who had donated already to their cause.

Anyone wishing to support the funeral can go to an online fundraising page at

College tribute

FELPHAM Community College has paid tribute to its former student.

Sophie left the school prior to the arrival of current head teacher Mark Anstiss.

He said the school was saddened when it heard the news and he had spoken to members of staff who had known her.

“She was a very pleasant and polite student,” he said on behalf of the school.

“She was nice-natured and responsible and one of the messages that’s come across was that she was always willing to help others.

“She was a model student in that respect.”

Sophie had attended the college from Year 7 and stayed there for sixth form.