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Celtic's Brendan Rodgers in Christmas Day visit to NI Hospice bearing £26k gift from Hoops

By Cate McCurry

Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers gave up some of his family Christmas Day celebrations to lend a helping hand to the charity that is closest to his heart.

The Northern Ireland Hospice ambassador spent yesterday morning visiting the patients, their families and staff in the Belfast centre.

During his visit the Carnlough man also announced a surprise Christmas present of £26,000 from himself and the first team squad at Parkhead.

Since becoming an ambassador earlier this year, the 43-year-old has made several visits to the adult and children's hospices, as well as running in the Belfast City Marathon for the charity back in May.

The Hoops manager lost his mother and father to cancer in the space of a year.

His father Malachy died in 2011 at the age of 59, and was cared for by the NI Hospice in his final days.

NI Hospice president and news broadcaster Paul Clark joined Brendan on his visit to yesterday.

As has been the tradition for many years, Paul and his family spent time at the hospice on Christmas Day, visiting patients and staff, alongside a team of volunteers who make special cocktails, sing carols and help to create a festive and joyous spirit at what is an extremely difficult time for many of the patients.

Speaking during his visit yesterday, Brendan said that seeing patients, families and staff at the hospice had "once again been a humbling experience" for him.

"On today of all days, the visit serves as a poignant reminder to me, and hopefully everyone out there, of the importance of spending quality time with family and loved ones," he said.

"The memory of my time spent at hospice today will stay with me for a very long time and I would like to wish all those families who I met today, and families everywhere, a peaceful and merry Christmas.

"I would also take this opportunity to acknowledge the incredible staff and volunteers at hospice who are working extremely hard to make this day extra special for the patients and families."

The gift of £26,000 from the Celtic players will sponsor a specialist children's palliative care nurse for a year, helping the hospice to support life-limited children at the facility or in their home.

The contribution will be facilitated through the hospice's Time To Care programme, which enables businesses and organisations to sponsor a nurse.

In return, the sponsored nurse will share updates with the sponsor, helping to spread awareness and understanding of the services of the NI Children's Hospice.

Mr Rodgers made a previous donation to the charity through the sale of his family home in Co Antrim, which funded the purchase of a state-of-the-art nurse call system for the new adult hospice.

Claire Bradshaw, head of communications at NI Hospice, said: "To have Brendan here with us, accompanying our president on his annual Christmas Day visit to hospice, is a wonderful treat for patients, families and of course our hard-working and dedicated staff and volunteers.

"Since becoming an ambassador earlier this year, Brendan has given his time selflessly to support the work of NI Hospice, and of course his generosity in terms of funding has been of huge help to us here. Each year our staff work tirelessly to generate over 70% of our £9m annual running costs through voluntary donations, fundraising events, corporate partnerships and legacies.

"To have Brendan's support towards this work is invaluable and we cannot thank him and his family enough for their commitment."

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