We did it. Thanks to your incredible support, the Belfast Telegraph's Christmas Appeal has hit its £50,000 target.
We asked readers to dig deep and you responded generously in your thousands.
To donate to the appeal text CLIC04£ followed by the amount you wish to contribute to 70070
As the appeal’s Christmas Eve deadline arrives today, we can reveal that the cash raised has hit £50,000 — and we’re still counting it.
Every penny donated will go towards laying the foundations of two respite centres in Belfast to be used by the families of children suffering from cancer.
We launched the Christmas Appeal in November to boost support for the CLIC Sargent Homes From Home Appeal.
This overall appeal needs to raise £3.7m to build the two sanctuaries close to treatment centres at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children and Belfast City Hospital.
The homes will act as a cosy base for families to stay in while their child is undergoing treatment. It is hoped they will relieve some of the stress and cost for families who face a lengthy round trip to Belfast for treatment when they open, as expected, by this time next year.
Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK which does not have such a facility for families facing the trauma of childhood cancer.
We have been overwhelmed by the gestures of festive goodwill — from the reader who anonymously posted a five pound note, to schools who gave thousands from Christmas festivities and one cancer patient who raised thousands with her Christmas card design. Ava Martin, (13), designed the popular card during her current treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
In a touching gesture, Londonderry schoolboy Dillon McLaughlin, (9), sent half of his birthday money to CLIC Sargent.
Well-known names backing the Christmas Appeal included legend Barry McGuigan who is patron of the charity along with his wife Sandra who chairs the Homes From Home Appeal.
The family know first hand about the support CLIC Sargent can offer as their daughter was diagnosed with leukaemia at the age of 11. He managed to persuade both Jenny Bristow and Stephen Ferris to come on board as ambassadors for the charity.
Mike Gilson, Editor of the Belfast Telegraph, said: “It's been a fantastic partnership with CLIC Sargent and I am delighted that we have made our Christmas Eve target. I'd like to thank all of our readers who donated pocket money, held a whip-round or wrote out a cheque.
“You have been amazing and what a good news antidote to some of the others stories around at the moment.
“We look forward to watching these two wonderful homes grow, built on the solid foundations of our Christmas campaign.”
Teresa Sloan, Appeal Director at CLIC Sargent, said: “The support of the Belfast Telegraph and its readers has been overwhelming.
“The amazing fundraising total combined with the support we have received has been an incredible boost to our Homes from Home appeal.
“Over the past few weeks you have read some of the stories of families who travel up to 95 miles, five times a week, to receive the cancer treatment their child needs.
“This has a massive impact on families at a difficult time.
“So these two Homes from Home in Belfast will help to ease that burden, and restore some normality for those families.
“This can be particularly important at Christmas time, and the reality of these Homes means that families could have a Christmas dinner together, rather than staying in a hotel or a hospital ward.”
Ms Sloan added: “On behalf of CLIC Sargent I’d like to thank everyone who contributed to this hugely important appeal. The generosity of the Northern Ireland public is truly something to be celebrated.”
‘CLIC Sargent gave us so much help and support’
The family of a teenage cancer survivor has thanked Belfast Telegraph readers for the fantastic amount of cash raised for a charity so close to their hearts.
Rachel Johnston, whose 13-year-old daughter Honour won a battle against a rare form of childhood ovarian cancer, said her daughter’s recovery had been helped immensely through involvement in backing the CLIC Sargent Homes From Home Appeal.
The proud Millisle mother said a “year from hell” for her family had come to a positive end through supporting the Christmas Appeal.
Rachel and Honour know first hand about the impact of travelling from their Co Down home to Belfast for treatment after the schoolgirl’s shock diagnosis at the age of 12. That is why they backed the Homes From Home appeal to build two respite centres that families such as theirs could use during treatment.
Honour went through a gruelling year of chemotherapy during which she and her family faced long and tiring commutes to the Royal.
The family received financial support from CLIC Sargent and, after her daughter made a full recovery, Rachel was keen to help with the Christmas Appeal.
“This was an excellent campaign and it's something we were very proud to be a part of,” the mother-of-three told the Belfast Telegraph.
“Ourselves and others in Millisle have collectively raised £500 for the appeal.
“We're from a very small village and it's just heartening to see how people can come together and give support to a worthy cause.
“Myself and Honour have been working with CLIC Sargent all year and it has been a really fantastic experience after what was really a year of hell when Honour was having chemo.
“We were just honoured to come on board then for the Homes from Home Christmas Appeal.
“The whole experience has really helped Honour and provided a positive distraction for her and even for me.”
For the Johnston family, Christmas this year is particularly special.
“Last year I remember sitting there watching Honour decorating the tree with lines in her chest and no hair and it was just really sad,” Rachel recalled.
“And there was that element of uncertainty too. But this year it actually feels like Christmas.
“Honour looks like herself, she's bouncing around, her hair is growing back and it's just really like we have Honour back again, we're getting back to normality.”
The teenager is now looking in to what further work she can do to help CLIC Sargent — and could make a career from working with children with cancer.
“I'd just like to thank CLIC Sargent for the support they gave us during Honour's treatment,” Rachel said.
“They helped us when we had no other help financially, I don't think people realise the additional costs there are when a child takes ill.
“There is no other financial help available from the government. CLIC Sargent really were a lifeline.
“I'd also like to thank them for giving us the opportunity to help with their projects. Just being involved with the whole thing nearly turns around a bad situation.
“Honour now wants to go on and work with children who are suffering with cancer, and this wouldn't have occurred to her if she hadn't been helped by CLIC Sargent.
“It's great that she has taken something positive out of a bad situation and I'm very proud of her.”
Here’s how it was done...
You sang carols, wrapped presents, bought a bun and stuck some cash in the post.
The Christmas Appeal total was raised in a variety of inventive ways — and every penny counts towards the CLIC Sargent Homes From Home Appeal.
We launched the Appeal in November, urging readers to dig deep to help such a great cause. You were also asked to come up with your own fundraising initiatives and there was no shortage of festive ideas.
Support came from schools, businesses, celebrities and individual readers who posted in cheques and cash. One boy even donated half his birthday money.
Thousands of pounds were raised through carol services, Christmas concerts and the charity’s present wrapping service at CastleCourt shopping centre, which was manned by 100 volunteers.
Workers were provided by the NI Assembly, HMRC, Halifax and Business in the Community who allowed staff the day off to wrap.
Millisle Primary School, which counts cancer survivor Honour Johnston among its past pupils, donated the proceeds of its carol service as did many other schools. Glenarm Castle donated through its Polar Christmas Express while culinary queen Jenny Bristow hosted a delicious bun sale at the Belfast Telegraph offices.
One of the biggest money-spinners came through sales of Christmas cards designed by cancer patient Ava Martin.
The 13-year-old from Coleraine designed the festive card from her bed at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children during her current treatment for Hodgkin's lymphoma.
And they’ve been selling by the sackful, including a mass sale to the PSNI which brought in £5,000.
We’ve also had celebrity backing with words of support from JLS, Eamonn Holmes, Brian Kennedy, Jenny Bristow, Barry McGuigan and Ulster’s Stephen Ferris.
Ferris encouraged teams to have dress up training sessions and winter BBQs to raise money for the cause. Our online auction also attracted massive interest with readers bidding on a last minute Christmas present.
We raised thousands through the sale of generous lots such as a coat worn and owned by George Best, a golf club signed by Graeme McDowell, tickets to see Girls Aloud and a spa package at Galgorm Resort and Spa.
...and here’s why it was done
“Our lives changed forever the day Sascha was diagnosed with leukaemia. We have had to find strength and coping skills we never knew we had to face each challenge. We could not have done this without the help and support of the CLIC Sargent.”
Nicky Fuller, mother of cancer survivor Sascha
“We've seen first-hand what a family goes through and how tough it can be on them. We are delighted to support CLIC Sargent.”
Tracy Patterson, teacher at Millisle Primary School
“I decided to use my time in hospital to help other people and came up with the idea of a Christmas card to help CLIC Sargent. I know what it's like to be away from home. I wasn't allowed visitors so the days were very long. I was waiting for quite a while for my diagnosis and was in hospital for two-and-a-half weeks. It would have meant everything to have a home from home, it would have meant I had a nice place to go and a bit of normality.”
Cancer patient Ava Martin whose Christmas cards have raised thousands for Appeal
“I found myself and Ava were isolated quite a bit while she was ill in hospital, and that's the time you want to have your family around you,”
Martina Martin, Ava's mother
“It's great to be able to help a charity that does such good work.”
Michael Moore, teacher at Millisle Primary School
“Our research tells us that on average a family in Northern Ireland will make a round trip of 95 miles, up to five times a week so that they can access cancer treatment. As you can imagine this puts a massive strain on families. That is why two Homes From Home are so important.”
Teresa Sloan, appeal director at CLIC Sargent
“The peace of mind the homes will give will allow cancer patients and their families to concentrate on fighting the disease. I can thinkof no better way to spend a few quid this Christmas than supporting our appeal.”
Belfast Telegraph Editor Mike Gilson
“I know that all the families who will use this valuable service will be very grateful for the facilities which will allow them to ensure the crucially important continuation of family support for their loved one.”
Health Minister Edwin Poots
“Without a doubt the girls decided it was a worthwhile cause. Our Community Action Group picked this charity and our P5 class did the singing. We're delighted to support it.”
Principal Dr Mitchell-Barrett, head of Victoria College Prep which had pupils singing in CastleCourt shopping centre to raise funds
“It's lovely to help, we enjoy it every year.”
Ann O'Reilly, civil servant and voluntary present wrapper at CastleCourt
“We have hundreds of volunteers, people are very generous with their time. People were calling me wanting to help out before I had even thought about organising this year's campaign. We're going from 9am to 10pm in the evening so they have a long day, we couldn't do it without them, our volunteers are so important to us.”
Fionnuala Savage, community fundraising manager with CLIC Sargent, paying tribute to Christmas volunteers
A huge thank-you, but please don’t stop there
We've hit our Christmas Appeal target — but there is much more work to be done towards building respite two homes for children battling cancer.
The £50,000 proceeds of our December appeal will help lay the foundations for two CLIC Sargent Homes from Home near the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children and Belfast City Hospital treatment centres.
The centres, to be built by 2014, will offer a homely base to stay for families while their child undergoes treatment, easing the stress and financial burden of travelling.
The children’s cancer charity estimates that, on average, families in Northern Ireland have to travel 95 miles, up to five times a week to access the cancer treatment they need for their sick child.
The new buildings will include shared kitchens and lounges, playrooms, young person’s rooms, laundry facilities and an outside space.
Overall they will cost £3.7m, so CLIC Sargent still needs your support.
Roisin McKenna, project manager at CLIC Sargent, told the Belfast Telegraph how much they have been helped by the generosity of readers.
“The money raised has really helped us firm up our time scales.
“It had given us a big boost and really made everything possible,” she said.
“Thanks to the money raised we are now fairly confident that building will commence in spring next year.
“We're hoping to start building in April or May, we are still waiting on some planning approval and other things to confirm everything, but we wouldn't be at this stage without the money raised by this appeal and other contributors.”
Once construction starts, the project is expected to take up to 10 months to complete.
“So hopefully this time next year the Homes from Home will be built,” Roisin added.
“This would not have been possible without people's generous donations and the Belfast Telegraph Christmas Appeal money was a huge boost.”
CLIC Sargent still needs your support to help improve the lives of children battling cancer.
The first fundraising event for the Homes from Home appeal of 2013 is the New Year's Day Dip. It takes place on Portrush Eaststrand Beach and all funds raised will go directly to the Homes from Home campaign.
If your New Year's resolution is to get fit, why not get training and gear up for the CLIC Sargent Malin Head to Mizen Head cycle which is happening on May 18?
The charity will support you all the way with fundraising and fitness advice for you to get the most out of the experience.
Or if running is more your thing, why not take on the Belfast City marathon on May 6?
Over 20,000 runners are expected to take part, and again the charity will provide training and fundraising advice.
In the meantime, Belfast’s Grand Opera House is hosting an evening of laughter and entertainment on February 28 with a host of Frank Carson's celebrity and showbiz friends as they celebrate the anniversary of the comedian’s death.
All proceeds from the show will benefit two of Frank’s favourite local charities, the Integrated Education Fund and CLIC Sargent’s Homes from Home Appeal.
Our roll of honour
Every name and organisation listed here contributed to the £50,000 raised, through voluntary work, a donation, a fundraising initiative or support
TDK Property Consultants
BHSFP Mini Rugby
Hendersons Food Service n Minprint, Belfast
Ava Martin and her mum Martina
Honour Johnston and her mum Rachel
Nicky, Stephen and Sascha Fuller
PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie (Honorary President PSNI Cancer Support Association)
Detective Chief Inspector Nick McCaw (Chairman PSNI Cancer Support Association)
Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce
Over 100 staff from the NI Assembly, HMRC, Halifax and Business in the Community who volunteered to gift wrap Christmas presents.
Belfast Telegraph street vendors
Guests at the Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year Awards
A Broader Picture — Portstewart
Greenvale Hotel Cookstown
Momento, Portrush n Banbridge Academy
Millisle Primary School n Kilmaine Primary School, Bangor
Royal Belfast Academical Institution
Dominican College, Portstewart
Coleraine High School
Holy Cross Girls Primary, Belfast
Lisnasharragh Primary School, Belfast
Victoria College Prep, Belfast
Rockport School, Holywood
Scoil an Droichid, Belfast
Taughmonagh Primary, Belfast
Currie Primary School, Belfast
Ballyhenry Primary School, Newtownabbey
Rosetta Primary School, Belfast
Knockbreda Primary School, Belfast
Hunterhouse College, Belfast
Gilnahirk Primary School, Belfast
John the Baptist Primary
Chef Jennie Bristow
Individual donors include:
Dillon McLaughlin (birthday money)
Mr W Knobbs
Mr J Balfe
Miss J Gillespie
Mrs B Kempston
Mr R Duncan
Miss CE Rusk
Mrs A Logan
Miss G Farrel
M A Clarke
Mrs H Hamilton
Mrs C Green
Mrs E Trouton
Miss J Castles
Mrs B Browne
Mrs M Harrison
Miss D Green
Mrs M Stewart
Mrs M Barr
Mrs R Read
Ms A Uprichard
Mrs F Robb
Mrs T Lynch
Mr D Barbour
Mrs S Duncan
Mrs Jean Shimmonds
Mrs D McKeen
Mrs A Ewing
Mrs J Douglas