Amy Winehouse‘s father says this year has been one of the toughest since his daughter’s life was cut short.
Six years have passed since the late singer died from accidental alcohol poisoning in her London home. Yet she will never stray from the thoughts of her parents, Mitch Winehouse, 67, and Janice Winehouse-Collins, 61.
“We think about her every day,” Mitch tells PEOPLE at the gala dinner of the Amy Winehouse Foundation at the Dorchester Hotel on Thursday. “In fact, we think about her every minute of the day.”
“I don’t know why but this year her birthday hit me very hard,” he continues about what would have been the singer’s 34th birthday, on Sept. 14. “I don’t know why but it was very tough.”
Winehouse’s parents are determined to make some good come from their daughter’s tragic death on July 23, 2011, through the Winehouse Foundation.
The foundation seeks to educate young people about the harmful effects of following the singer’s path, and also provides music therapy for disabled, disadvantaged and terminally ill young people.
In October 2016, the Foundation went one step further and opened Amy’s Place in East London to help female addicts transition into post-rehab life.
“What’s lovely is that we are doing so much good for kids really because they’re the ones that need it,” says Janice. “It is all positive.”
According to Mitch, the Foundation has now reached out to more than 200,000 young people about the dangers of substance abuse through their centers in London, the Caribbean, New York and Florida. At the same time, they’ve also enabled thousands more to express themselves through music.
“We’ve got a young man here tonight called Tom who’s going to be playing the drums for us on stage,” Mitch says. “He’s autistic and he came to Amy’s Yard, which is our music project for disadvantaged young people. He did so well he played with me a couple of weeks ago at a gig.
WATCH: Amy Winehouse’s Mother Janis Recounts Her Final Days with Her Daughter
“Even more importantly than that, he is now working as a music therapist with young children who are struggling with life-limiting illnesses. We have helped to enable Tom to express himself through music and now he’s giving back to kids who are very unfortunate. It’s amazing. We are very, very proud.”
On October 27, it will be 11 years since Winehouse took the music world by storm with her classic Back to Black album. Yet her influence continues, with fellow Londoner Adele just one of many artists to credit Winehouse as an inspiration away from the music world, Winehouse’s attitude to life has also provided something of a template for her family and friends.
“She was a really charitable girl, so we are really just continuing what she would have done,” says Mitch.
“Amy used to take people off the streets and feed them. Some of the paps used to chase her through the street and then she’d get into her house and she’d go ‘Dad I feel sorry for them’ because it would be freezing cold outside. So she would make them all tea and sandwiches and go out and play football with them. Amy was just a very caring person.”
Janice’s new husband, Richard Collins, adds, “We like to think she’s looking down on us saying ‘Well done mum; well done dad.’ “