The West

Red nose regatta for a good cause

When Dean Neal gave his newborn son a kiss on the cheek before work on a spring morning more than 20 years ago, his tiny body no longer held life.

For Mr Neal and wife Suzanne, the heartbreaking memories of that day in October 1993, just days after 11-week-old Damon passed a medical examination with flying colours, remain painfully vivid.

At the weekend, the passionate rowers, with their two adult children Trent and Felicity, helped to raise vital funds as the faces of the Red Nose Regatta for SIDS and Kids, a charity dedicated to eliminating sudden infant death syndrome, which claimed Damon.

The event, at the Champion Lakes Regatta Centre, aimed to raise money to support other parents struggling with the death of a child and to prevent further deaths from SIDS, which is among its most prominent in Australia in WA.

The Neal family, Dean, left, Felicity, Suzanne ready for Red Nose Day. Picture : Lincoln Baker/The West Australian

The Neals named a boat Trent Damon in honour of both their sons.

"Having two great kids now who have grown up, it makes you appreciate what you do have. Our story has been quite humbling for us and it's about not taking life for granted," Mr Neal said.

Mr Neal, who admitted attempting to hide his emotions after the death of his son, said he wanted to encourage men struggling with the death of a child to look for "a shoulder to cry on".

"Blokes don't tend to express emotion - we think we're beyond that. The message I have now is for parents to seek help and don't bury it," he said.

The West Australian

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