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Little cancer battler Ethan Thompson (4) takes to ice as families enjoy Giant night of fun

By Lisa Smyth

A little boy fighting cancer has been joined by his brothers on the ice at a Belfast Giants match - all thanks to Co Down golfing hero Rory McIlroy.

Four-year-old Ethan Thompson - who was diagnosed with leukaemia in October 2015, aged just two - and his brothers, Rhys (6) and Callum (7) had the honour of dropping the ceremonial first puck ahead of the Giants' clash with the Cardiff Devils on Saturday night.

The trio from Portadown, who appeared delighted by the ceremony, were guests of the Rory Foundation, a charitable body set up by the champion golfer in 2013.

The Thompson family have been supported throughout Ethan's illness by the Cancer Fund for Children, a charity providing practical and financial support to young people with the disease.

They have enjoyed short breaks at Daisy Lodge, the charity's therapeutic facility outside Newcastle, Co Down, which was officially opened by Holywood man McIlroy in 2014.

Barry Funston, chief executive of the Rory Foundation, said: "It was great to be able host an evening at the Belfast Giants game for children from the Cancer Fund for Children and their families.

"To see happy children and to be able to give families a night off makes it all worthwhile. It was a really enjoyable evening, and thank you to all at the Stena Line Belfast Giants for being so accommodating."

The Cancer Fund for Children's Neil Symington, who also attended the night, said: "Families who are coping with a cancer diagnosis are under enormous pressures, which can make family time almost impossible.

"It is wonderful to be able to bring so many young people and parents together this evening for what has been a very memorable occasion."

Ethan's parents Gordon and Miriam were first alerted to the possibility he was unwell when he developed a limp. However, they never imagined their youngest son was suffering from cancer.

The couple set up a Facebook page - Ethan's New Adventure - to keep friends, family and supporters up to date on his treatment and fundraising.

In December 2015, just a few months after the devastating diagnosis, family and friends of Ethan shaved their heads to raise cash, with nine volunteers, including Ethan's dad and grandfather, putting themselves forward for the challenge.

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