A DEVOTED dad is rowing the English Channel to raise money for a community centre being built in memory of his daughter, who died aged 12.

John Darling, 43, whose daughter Karis died in April last year, has spent the last six months training every weekend in Portsmouth for the challenge.

He plans to row across the Channel alongside his brothers, Karis’s uncle Dean Crampton, and other family friends.

After Karis, of Gardner Avenue, Corringham, died, her family set up the Karis May Darling Foundation to raise £220,000 towards a community centre.

John said: “We have been working really hard on raising as much money as possible for the foundation because we want to start building the community centre as soon as possible.

“It’s a real family experience and the crew is made up of brothers, with myself, my two and two other sets. Our aim is to cross in record time for our age group.”

The family are hoping to put plans into Thurrock Council for the community centre imminently.

Building work on the field opposite Karis’s former school, Gable Hall, in Southend Road, could start by November.

Karis died after contracting the streptococcus A infection, which can lead to meningitis.

Mum Kerri said: “Every day is hard and Karis would have been going into Year 10.

“We are always pulling together and the dream of the community centre is one Karis would have loved.

“We really want to get things moving now so we can begin the building and really get the wheels in motion.”

So far, the family have raised £100,000 through a combination of charity events, sponsored events and donations.

John has a meeting with planning officers at Thurrock Council next week, where further plans will be discussed.

The community centre will be a centre for sports and performing arts, the two things Karis loved the most.

To sponsor the team, visit www.karismaydarling foundation.org.uk or e-mail info@karismaydarling.org.uk