Wigan woman's online campaign raises sepsis awareness in memory of school friend

Leonie Pemberton shared her own photograph to launch the online campaign
Leonie Pemberton shared her own photograph to launch the online campaign

A beauty queen has launched a campaign to raise awareness of a potentially fatal condition in memory of her school friend.

Leonie Pemberton said she was “overwhelmed” with the response she had received so far in her bid to highlight sepsis, a serious complication of an infection.

Jemma-Louise Roberts

Jemma-Louise Roberts

The 20-year-old nursery assistant urged people to post pictures of themselves wearing red on Facebook, along with #sepsisawareness.

She included a poster about sepsis and encouraged people to read and share a post by UK Sepsis Trust about Jemma-Louise Roberts, who was just 13 when she died in March 2014 from the condition.

Leonie and Jemma-Louise were both pupils at St David Haigh and Aspull CE Primary School, but Leonie had not heard of sepsis until her friend died.

Leonie, who lives in Aspull, said: “I want to raise more awareness of sepsis and to get more people to know Jemma’s story and the signs and symptoms of the condition.”

She chose sepsis as her platform ahead of travelling to the USA this summer to represent Britain in a beauty pageant.

She was crowned Miss Diamond UK, securing her place in the Miss Regency International competition in Las Vegas in July.

Her Facebook post caught the attention of other pageant competitors, who were soon sharing their own pictures as part of the campaign.

Leonie’s initial target was to get 50 people involved, but she reached 70 within 48 hours and has now seen the hashtag used by 130 people from all over the world.

She said: “I am overwhelmed with the response.”

Her online campaign will continue for several weeks and Leonie is urging people to take part and make as many people as possible aware of sepsis.

She said: “I want people to wear red and hashtag ‘sepsis awareness’ and share the poster. It tells the signs and symptoms.”

Leonie is also raising money for UK Sepsis Trust and is busy organising next weekend’s Miss Wigan and Northwest pageant, which will support both that charity and Wigan and Leigh Hospice.

Her campaign is backed by Jemma-Louise’s mother Diane Roberts, from Whelley, who has campaigned tirelessly to raise money for charity and awareness of sepsis.

She said: “I’m really pleased that Leonie has helped to spread Jemma’s story and more importantly awareness of TSS and sepsis throughout the pageant world.

“It’s so important for young girls especially to be aware of TSS and to know the signs and symptoms of both TSS and sepsis.

“She has had an amazing response to her campaign and we can’t thank her enough.”