Early last year, Felicia Llena, a first-year biology student at the University of St Andrews, passed away at the age of 18. In the following months, her friends and fellow residents of St Regulus Hall raised funds which were intended to be enough for purchasing a memorial bench to commemorate the life of Ms Llena. Due to the hard work of Ms Llena’s close friends through trying times and the shared understanding between Ms Llena’s fellow students that her life deserves to be memorialised, the fundraising efforts exceeded expectations, raising a total of £4,368 after aiming to raise just £700.
The Saint spoke with Darcy Peake and Ilaria Bevan who have been behind the management of these donations and the organisation of memorial arrangements. After careful consideration, Ms Peake and Ms Bevan made the decision to split the donations three ways into a bench, a piano, which will be placed in St Regulus Hall library, and a donation to the charity Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM).
The bench will be placed at the bottom of Queen’s Gardens, nestled between two trees where you will be able to sit and see the Kinnessburn,“like Felicia loved to be”, a place that is “solitary but also a place to find comfort”. The bench will still be close to G floor of St Regulus halls where Ms Llena and some of her close friends lived. Ms Bevan and Ms Peake described their friends on G floor “as a family, like true sisters.”
On asking Ms Peake and Ms Bevan why they chose a piano, they recounted Ms Llena’s love for music. “Her Spotify playlists are in all the girls from G’s phones, you can hear her moods in the playlists, she had a bit of everything, reflecting her whole personality.” Ms Peake said. With Ms Bevan adding that “music helps you remember, and is something that is sometimes not given enough value.”
Ms Peake and Ms Bevan said they chose CALM as the charity to donate to due to the work they do to improve people’s living, but also due to the encompassing nature of “Miserable”. Ms Bevan said, “anyone can get sad, anyone can drown in loneliness and in St Andrews, because it is smaller than other UK universities, it gets overlooked that you can still feel miserable and get lost. University isn’t the best time for everyone.” Ms Peake added “At the end of the day, Felicia didn’t just die- she killed herself. That was miserable, she was miserable, and for us all on G, it was miserable.”
Ms Peake and Ms Bevan urge people- if they feel the same way- to reach out, to friends, to family and to the appropriate University and student services, because there are places to get help.Ms Bevan and Ms Peake wish for the bench and piano to be used, to be part of future and current students’ life at St Andrews. “Treat them like any person, with respect.” said Ms Peake, “play the piano in the way you want to hear the music. Don’t be afraid to hit the keys hard,” said Ms Bevan. “We want these pieces to beloved.”
Ms Bevan and Ms Peake wanted to reiterate their gratitude to everyone who helped raise the money. “We want to thank everyone who came to ‘Coffee, Cakes and Care’ and helped with the other fundraising, for the baking, the live music, for the donations online, sharing on Facebook, buying a Flixr ticket even if you couldn’t come, for everyone who helped make it happen.” said Ms Bevan. “It was during exams everyone had their own stuff going on but people still came.” Said Ms Peake.
Both were also thankful to the St Regulus hall staff for their support in accommodating the event and the piano. Both Ms Peake and Ms Bevan wanted to emphasise not just the thanks but for the love of their and MsLlena’s friends who all played massive roles in the fundraising.“It wasn’t just us” said Ms Peake “it was Stella, Alex, Felicity and Alison. All the G girls.” Finally, Ms Bevan and Ms Peake wished to emphasize that in no way did they want to glorify Ms Llena’s experience. Ms Bevan concluded,“physical objects never make up for a person.