Beauty pageant queen pays tribute to her grandad who walked her down aisle
- Credit: Charlotte Bond
Dementia didn't stop Natasha Streatfield's grandad from walking her down the aisle on her Big Day - and she's walked miles in his memory.
Beauty pageant winner Natasha, known as Tash, from Stowmarket, had a very close relationship with her grandad John Skinner, from Pakenham in west Suffolk, but sadly watched him deteriorate due to dementia.
In tribute to him, she walked 17 miles for the Alzheimer’s Society in March this year - a 'Memory Walk' - in her local area, and is now calling on others to don their walking boots this September to support the charity.
The 36-year-old, who was crowned Mrs Atlantic in April, said her grandad was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease when she was in her early 20s and it became very much "role reversal" with her helping him.
Tash said: "I suddenly became the one who would push him around in a wheelchair. 'Too fast! Slow down!' nan would shout. Grandad would laugh and say 'no, keep going!
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“I always said when I get married, grandad would walk me down the aisle. A week before my wedding date, he was taken to hospital after a fall, but he made a great recovery.
“I kept to my word, and he walked me down the aisle on 19 December 2014. By then, he no longer had capacity to give me away. My brother took over for that part. I wasn’t going to take my grandad's moment away from him that I had always said would happen.”
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Tash, who works as a hair stylist for her mum Sharron Wratten's business Elegant Hair & Beauty, said as soon as she was born she became her grandad's princess.
"He would spend hours on his hands and knees playing shops with me," she said. "We'd pull out the contents of my nan’s cupboards, or her button jar and count them one by one.
“I was very fortunate to spend weekends at Hembsy in their caravan with them. I would insist on spending hours at the arcades where he would slip me another pound to change up for the 2p machines. He'd say 'don’t tell Nan' and laugh.
“When I became a singer and dancer, my nan and grandad were my cheerleaders. They would always attend, to watch when they could, to support me."
Tash, who is married to Mark, said she no longer sings and dances on stage (she's previously appeared in Bugsy Malone at the Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds), but entering beauty pageants has tapped into her love of performance.
After only starting to make entries last year, she won her second competition, Miss Atlantic UK in the Mrs category - and she says her grandad would have been proud. He passed away in July 2019 aged in his 80s.
"It was something I always wanted to do," she said. "When he passed away I thought: 'I'm going to go for it'."
She has also used her platform to raise awareness and funds into Alzheimer's.
This autumn, people can organise their own Memory Walk or take part in one organised by the Alzheimer’s Society.
Tash said she will tackle 50 miles over the course of September, adding other pageant finalists are taking part.
Debbie Foster, Alzheimer’s Society area manager for Norfolk and Suffolk, said: "The last year has been tough for everyone, but for people living with dementia the impact of coronavirus has been catastrophic and every step our fundraisers take will make a huge difference by providing a lifeline for people affected by dementia who have been worst hit.
“We are in awe of our amazing supporters like Natasha whose fundraising efforts help fund our services which have been used over six million times since the first lockdown began in March 2020, showing people need us now more than ever.”
To donate or find out more see here.