Belfast Telegraph's first Home From Home gets go-ahead
A special house for families to stay in while children receive cancer treatment has been given the green light, thanks to funds raised by the Belfast Telegraph.
CLIC Sargent has been granted planning permission to build Northern Ireland's first Home From Home opposite the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children.
The Belfast Telegraph and its readers put its weight behind the Homes From Home appeal at Christmas time and helped the charity raise £50,000 which will go towards the build, due to begin next month.
As well as staff bake sales and coffee mornings, the newspaper ran an auction in which readers could bid for coveted prizes, such as a hat belonging to football legend George Best.
The Telegraph was overwhelmed with goodwill gestures, from 13-year-old cancer patient Ava Martin who designed a Christmas card to help raise funds, to the reader who anonymously posted a £5 note.
CLIC Sargent's A Long Way From Home report found that, on average, families in Northern Ireland make a round trip of 95 miles up to five times a week so that their child can access cancer treatment.
The Home From Home will provide free accommodation to families travelling to Belfast during their child's cancer treatment, which will alleviate the stress and expense of long journeys.
Rachel Johnston had to travel from Millisle to Belfast while her daughter Honour (13) was going through seven rounds of chemotherapy for ovarian cancer last year.
She said the new facility will be a lifeline for families.
"I wish we had this Home From Home facility to stay at while Honour was going through treatment, it would have made life so much easier," she said.
Honour is now in remission. Rachel added: "I'm overwhelmed with the effort the Belfast Telegraph and its readers put into raising this money that will help families affected by cancer sustain their home life and ease the burden of long journeys."
Homes From Home appeal project manager Roisin McKenna, thanking the Belfast Telegraph and its readers, said: "The Christmas media appeal along with our other seasonal activity raised a staggering £50,000 for the Homes From Home Appeal and really helped us reach the finish line in terms of getting started on our first project in Belfast."
The charity has also revealed plans to build a second home close to Belfast City Hospital and the Northern Ireland Cancer Centre. It has already raised £2m which has allowed it to buy the two sites, but it needs to raise an extra £1.5m so the second one can be built.