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Going, going... gown! The wedding dress up for sale in aid of children's charity

By Linda Stewart

A Co Antrim mum is auctioning off her wedding dress to raise funds for a charity that provided vital support for her autistic son.

Mum-of-three Kelly Roberts (29), a health trust PA from Crumlin, married sweetheart, Jordan McGeown, in January.

She is selling her beautiful tulle wedding dress on eBay to "give something back" to Caudwell Children after the national charity funded vital sensory equipment for her son, Alexander (8).

"I have three children, and I used to work with children, and I just knew there was something different about Alexander," Kelly said.

"His main problem is that he has a lot of sensory problems with noise and lights and touch. He will touch too hard or bang his feet too hard. He just was different, really.

"We used to say to ourselves he's still only wee - he will grow out of it. But then he was getting older and he still displayed a lot of problems."

After seeking help from their GP, the family had to wait for two years before Alexander could be assessed, during which time they could see his symptoms get worse - and then he was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome.

"He can still do the same things that anybody else can do, but he struggles a lot emotionally and he needs a lot of guidance and support to go out and socialise with people," Kelly said.

"His wee brain just works differently and it takes a lot longer to come round to things than anybody else's."

Alexander's needs are mostly sensory so, at the end of 2015, the family got in contact with Caudwell Children, the national charity that provides practical and emotional support to disabled children and their families.

"The lady who assessed Alexander told me how sensory equipment often has a calming effect on children with sensory conditions," Kelly said.

"When she told me that Caudwell Children could provide fundraising support to secure a light sensor pack, which would normally cost over £1,300, I made a note of their name and finally got in touch with them at the end of last year."

The charity agreed to provide the 80% funding needed to allow Kelly, and her husband Jordan, to buy the pack and, after receiving the specialist kit, Kelly was determined to give something back. "The pack includes a bubble tube, acrylic mirrors, an LED light source, a projector and a bubble fish tube," Kelly said.

"Alexander struggles with his emotions but the kit has really helped to calm him down when he's been anxious or frustrated.

"It's somewhere dark and quiet that he can go and just chill out when he gets anxious and stressed. It's a quiet place for him to go on his own.

"He just loves it - you can just see him chilling out and zoning out.

"You can see his wee body settling down and calming down when things are getting too overwhelming," she explained.

Part of the package was a weighted blanket which has helped Alexander to calm down and sleep through the night, Kelly added.

The family had a big day on January 14 when Kelly married engineer Jordan (34), at the Belfast Loughshore Hotel in Carrickfergus, with children Georgia (6), Alexander (8) and Jack (12) in attendance. Alexander took part in the ceremony as a page boy.

"Everybody was so pleased that he did it and took part. It was great," Kelly said.

"We decided we wanted something good to come out of the dress - there was no point putting it in the attic and just forgetting about it.

"I also work for Crossroads for Carers, a charity based in Newtownards, which helps support sick and disabled children and adults, so I know how important fundraising is to charities.

"Unfortunately, with the cost of the wedding, we're not in a position to give money. However, it suddenly occurred to me that I could raise some cash by auctioning my dress on eBay."

The size 10-12 tulle gown originally cost £1,400 and will be a bargain for whoever snaps it up.

"When I contacted Caudwell Children about the idea, they said they had never done anything like that before and they were excited about doing something new. I am really just hoping it's successful and raises some money for the charity."

The former Crumlin High School and Belfast Metropolitan College student says the whole family is behind her fundraising auction.

"They love it. They think it's a great idea and they want to see some good come out of the sale of the dress," Kelly added.

Kelly has put a reserve price on the dress and you can bid for the elegant item on her eBay page here: ebay.eu/2kFxnYd. For more information on Caudwell Children visit: www.caudwellchildren.com

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