Group of friends climb Slieve Donard in solidarity with sick toddler's parents
The parents of a toddler with cerebral palsy led a fundraising team to the summit of Slieve Donard on Sunday, raising awareness and funds for a charity they say has been a "fantastic support".
Deirdre and Donal Roche's two-year-old son Patrick suffered an unexplained stroke shortly after his birth in 2010. The resulting brain damage left Patrick with hemiplegia, a form of cerebral palsy.
He has significant weakness and lack of control on the right side of his body, making everyday tasks a significant challenge for the youngster.
The determination and effort with with he approaches each day inspired the couple, who live in the Ravenhill area, to do something to show their support.
They decided to group some friends together to take on the challenge of climbing Slieve Donard, the highest peak in Northern Ireland, alongside another team of parents in England who climbed the three highest peaks in England, Wales and Scotland in under 24 hours.
"The walk was very challenging for me and we had a wide range of ages and fitness levels completing it but very single walker gave it 100%," Deirdre said.
"Although I found it difficult, I was inspired by remembering Patrick along the way and all the challenges he faces every day."
Deirdre, a sister of Councillor Claire Hanna, explained how much it meant to the family that so many of their friends walked with them.
"I was really touched by the support my friends who participated have given me, they have given me strength by climbing our personal mountain with us.
"But I've also been completely overwhelmed by the sponsorship and by the good wishes of friends who couldn't be there on the day.
"We have surpassed our fundraising target of £1,000 and donations are still coming in. I'm so grateful as Hemi Chat is just a small, newly- established charity – the money will be a real benefit to it."
For parents of children with hemiplegia life can be a rollercoaster of emotions and difficult decisions to ensure the best future for their children. Deirdre explained that this is where charities like Hemi Chat really come into their own.
"Hemi Chat provides fantastic support, both online through an active facebook group and through local meet ups for families living with hemiplegia," Deirdre said.
"It is run entirely voluntarily by parents of children affected by hemiplegia and it brings over 600 families together across the UK," she added.
"There is always another parent with an answer to a therapy or equipment related query or just to help you feel like you're not alone with a particular aspect of the condition.
"For the future, it makes me happy to know that Patrick will meet other children facing the same challenges as him and I hope that will be a support for him."