Christmas joy for Armagh family as they're reunited thanks to property firm's competition
There were screams of joy and tears of delight when an Armagh family were reunited for Christmas in a special seasonal surprise sprung by a big-hearted local property company.
Laura Mone from Keady had been longing to get home from Australia for two years, but could not afford the flight and faced spending her second Christmas away.
She could not believe her luck when she was chosen as the winner of a competition on social media run by CPS Property, in which the firm offered to fly someone home for Christmas as a special gift to a family to celebrate its 30th anniversary.
The competition was run across the business's Facebook, Twitter and Instragram pages, reaching 112,322 people over a two-week period, with 112 applications.
There was no doubting the joy of the Mone family when Laura walked into the house on Sunday night after keeping her return under wraps.
The family were not looking forward to Christmas, at it is their first without Laura's grandparents, who passed away after she left.
Now they are expecting their best one ever.
And the icing on the cake is that Laura's sister Cara is expecting to give birth to her first child on Christmas Day.
"I've been buzzing since I was told I had won the competition, but I couldn't tell anybody - I haven't slept with the excitement," said Laura.
"When I came into the house on Sunday night everybody was just screaming.
"I've never seen my mummy cry - that was a first. Everybody is ecstatic.
"For as long as I can remember we have gone to my nanny and grandad's house for Christmas dinner.
"However, grandad died just a few months after I went to Australia, and we lost nanny this year, so it was going to be a very weird Christmas for the family.
"We are all going to my sister's in Belfast and it is now going to be the best Christmas ever. I'm here until December 30, and Cara's baby is due on Christmas Day. I just want to be here to get the chance to see it - it will be wonderful."
Laura has always had the travel bug, which is why she moved to Australia two years ago.
She worked a number of jobs before finally starting a position as a carer a few months ago - the same role she was in before leaving home.
Her work pattern is unpredictable, which is why she could not think about saving for a flight.
Last night delighted mum Carmel (57) said she and husband Brian (59) were gobsmacked when their daughter walked into their home unexpectedly on Sunday night.
"It is fantastic, I can't describe the happiness and joy I feel inside," she added.
"Just to see her standing there was such a shock.
"It was unbelievable, there are no words to describe it.
"It is going to be a fantastic Christmas.
"In fact, Christmas started for us the minute that she walked through the door.
"Christmas was going to be very strange this year, as it would have been our first Christmas without going to my mother's, and we also lost my dad, and Laura wasn't going to be there.
"This has just lifted the whole thing and made it very special.
"I don't think CPS realise how much joy they have created, and I can't thank them enough."
Art O'Hagan, managing director of CPS, said: "As part of our 30th anniversary celebrations we thought we would offer an opportunity to create a memorable homecoming.
"Also, we thought there was no better way we could do it after placing just over 2,000 people in new homes this year.
"We felt it was a chance to give back to the community and really make a family's Christmas this year.
"We have been lucky to have a very loyal customer base, so we wanted to make a difference."