Belfast Telegraph

Balloons for Daddy

A Belvoir woman put everything into a fundraising charity night in honour of her father who died suddenly six months ago — even enlisting the talents of some stripper friends.

Twenty-three year old Sarah Beacom pushed the boat out in tribute to William ‘Billy’ Stevenson last Friday evening, May 28, at the Naval Club on Great Victoria Street. Unfortunately the event coincided with the murder of Bobby Moffatt on the Shankill Road and a number of people were too frightened to leave their homes.

Sarah, who grew up in the Milltown estate of the Belvoir area, lost her father to a sudden heart attack in November last year. The night before his passing, Billy, as he was known to his friends, was playing darts with his team in the Naval Club, his ‘local'.

Sarah said: “Even though he had suffered two heart attacks prior to this, we had no idea that this was going to happen again, never mind be fatal. It was such a shock for everyone, especially after he was having a great time with his mates the night before, playing for his local darts team.

“I feel it was especially hard for us all as I felt the support, in regard to services, weren’t there for us. My grandad also died with heart failure when he was 65.

“One of my first reactions was wanting to raise awareness for families in a similar situation to mine. I contacted Chest Heart and Stroke Northern Ireland (CHSNI), the charity set up to help victims of these types of illnesses and found that support can only be provided so long as money is raised to sustain it — the whole system is based on voluntary contributions.”

Sarah decided to gather her father’s friends and family at his favourite venue for a fundraising extravaganza. For those who attended, it was clear how much time Sarah had taken to ensure lots of money could be raised — she auctioned a Linfield FC and Ulster Rugby shirt signed by their players, as well as a Manchester United shirt signed by their star player Dimitar Berbatov. There was also a ballot with prizes donated by local businesses — manicure treatments and hair dressing vouchers to name but a few. Two of her male friends who strip professionally also performed a turn. The highlight of the evening for everyone though was the balloon release —with labels remembering her Dad tied to them.

Despite a successful night and everything going as planned, Sarah felt disappointed with the turn out — the event took place hours after the fatal shooting. Sarah said: “I was expecting a lot of people to come from the Shankhill area, but they all called me beforehand to let me know they couldn't make it — everyone was afraid to leave their homes that night. It's a shame but I totally understood, it is terrible what happened there. I can see why they would want to stay in.”

Nevertheless, Sarah has vowed to continue her fundraising efforts. “I am already thinking I will organise another event now to raise funds, but next time on an even bigger scale.”

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