Amy's House a haven for families of young cancer patients
A second special house where families of young people having cancer treatment can stay for a vital break has opened in Belfast.
CLIC Sargent yesterday opened the doors of Amy's House, which is within walking distance of Belfast City Hospital.
It will save the physical, emotional and financial cost of travel to and from hospital, and let families spend more time together.
The Home From Home opening capped a £3.7m fundraising campaign launched in 2012 with the aim of giving more support to children and young people with cancer.
The funding drive was boosted by the Belfast Telegraph, which helped raise £50,000 for the new accommodation.
Young people supported by the charity joined CLIC Sargent chief executive Kate Lee for the ribbon-cutting ceremony. They included Danielle McGriskin (19) from Lisburn, who was 14 when she was diagnosed with a brain tumour and hydrocephalus.
She was supported by a CLIC Sargent social worker and her family stayed in the charity's Bristol Home From Home, CLIC House, after travelling there for vital treatment. "The house was a godsend and meant the family could stay together," she said.
"I can't imagine how much worse my experience would have been without it. This new home is going to have a huge impact on patients and families in Northern Ireland. It is a fantastic place."
John James Fisher was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia in 2011 just before his GCSE exams. During his treatment his mother Brenda had a 65-mile round trip whenever she wanted to visit him or come home to look after her other three children.
He said: "It was really difficult. I felt very cut off from the family in that sense because the travelling didn't make things easy for my family and it was very tiring.
"You can see the difference a place like Amy's House will make. Parents and families will be able to spend more time with their children and it will really help with the costs as well as the stress."
Facilities include five large en suite bedrooms, a shared lounge and kitchen space, a quiet room, a young people's room, outdoor space and a roof terrace.
Paul's House, which provides accommodation for families of younger children being treated at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children, was opened by the charity in February 2014.
Ms Lee said: "Every week two children and young people in Northern Ireland are diagnosed with cancer, meaning they will require treatment in specialist hospitals in Belfast.
"This can result in families having to travel huge distances, with an average journey of 95 miles, sometimes every day. Amy's House will provide vital respite and support for families of young people being treated in Belfast City Hospital.
"The Northern Ireland Home From Home Appeal has been a huge success and we are incredibly grateful for the support and donations provided by our dedicated fundraisers, donors and supporters.
"We would like to thank the Belfast Telegraph for their fantastic support, helping us ensure that our message was seen by so many members of the public in order to reach our target."
Cecilia Milburn, CLIC Sargent UK Home From Home manager, said: "This is the first CLIC Sargent Home From Home specifically for teenagers and young people. We are only a 'slipper walk' from Belfast City Hospital, and Amy's House will provide a warm, homely environment, helping families stay together as much as possible at this difficult time."
Ms Milburn added: "We have provided support for more than 100 families at Paul's House since it opened and look forward to doing the same here."
Amy's House is the 10th Home From Home opened by CLIC Sargent, which provides emotional, practical, financial and clinical support to help children and young people with cancer cope with the disease and get the most out of life.