Belfast Telegraph

Abbots Cross pupils and colleagues to raise £6,000 in teacher Helen Hanley's memory

By Joanne Sweeney

She was a much-loved teacher for more than 30 years. So the death of Helen Hanley left a deep impression on the young pupils she looked out for at Abbots Cross Primary School in Newtownabbey.

 

Mrs Hanley, a devoted wife and mother, was 59 when she died from a brain tumour last year - just 14 weeks after diagnosis.

Such was the loving legacy the teacher left behind at Abbots Cross, that her colleauges and pupils decided to do something big in her memory.

The 292 pupils, 30 members of staff and over 35 parents got together last weekend to raise £6,000 in the most successful sponsored event in the school's history. The money from the 'Run a mile in memory of Mrs Hanley' event will go to Macmillan Cancer in support of its unit based at Antrim Area Hospital, where Mrs Hanley spent her last days.

"This is the most amount of money the school has ever raised," said former colleague and teacher Kathryn McClean.

"This shows just how much Mrs Hanley meant to us all. She was a highly creative teacher and loved all her pupils.

"There wasn't any child that she didn't try to get them to love reading and writing."

The school, which is situated on the Doagh Road, was left in shock when the mother-of-three from Ballynure died after such a short illness on September 8, 2014.

Two of Mrs Hanley's children, Rose and John, have also raised £1,600 for Macmillan after competing in the Berlin half-marathon last weekend.

Her grieving husband Gary said yesterday: "I retired as headmaster of Carrick Model Primary School on August 31 last year and Helen died at the Macmillan unit on September 8 so I'm still trying to get used to life without her.

"Her illness was so short and it took us all by surprise.

"Helen had complained of a few headaches and there were some moments of confusion and they were the only indications but after one bad headache, we took her to the A&E at the Royal Victoria Hospital and she was admitted right away.

"She had a particularly large and awkward grade four tumour and had surgery within days."

Sadly, Mrs Hanley's condition deteriorated when she went home and she was later admitted to the Macmillan Unit in Antrim.

"Those were very difficult weeks for us all but I cannot thank enough the truly wonderful staff who cared for her at both hospitals, providing round the clock care," said Mr Hanley.

He added: "I would like to thank Helen's wonderful colleagues who have really missed her and for all the efforts of the staff, pupils and parents for making this effort and keeping her memory alive. It really stands as a testament to Helen and her work at the school."

Mrs Hanley was also a popular member of the Ballynure and District Community Association.

Kay Clarke said: "Helen was instrumental in bringing our Riverside Community Garden to life and gave many voluntary hours to all of our projects.

"Sadly she did not see the garden bloom, but we trust it is a fitting legacy to her."

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