Belfast Telegraph

Willie Turner's story has touched us all

Editor's Viewpoint

The generosity of Belfast Telegraph readers never ceases to amaze. No sooner had our exclusive story about a terminally-ill Portadown man's desire to marry his fiancee and have a dream honeymoon with her and their children hit the streets than social media went into overdrive, with people rallying round to make his wish come true.

Certainly, it would take a heart of stone not to be moved by Willie Turner's story. He is a man who has been given only months to live but who wants to create wonderful memories for his partner and their children. Marrying Lyndsey Browne and going on a foreign family holiday for the first time is his greatest hope, and there is every chance it will happen.

Already he has been inundated with offers of help to create a fairytale wedding. This is not just a reaction to his plight but also to the nature of the man who was a coach who helped hundreds of youngsters to learn how to swim.

Many of their parents have set up their own social media page to gather donations for Willie, which is a wonderful way of saying thank you for the gift he gave their youngsters. They recognised the innate goodness of the man and want to give him something at his time of real need.

The one variable that no one can really control is Willie's health. He has been admitted to hospital for further tests. Hopefully, the prognosis will be sufficiently encouraging to allow him to fulfil his wish and avail of the generosity shown to him and Lyndsey. Of course Willie's condition means that all of this will be bittersweet as ultimately there can be no happy ending. Yet the hoped-for marriage and honeymoon has given him a goal to aim for and allowed him to adopt a positive frame of mind.

By concentrating on giving his fiancee and children something special to remember him by, he is accepting his own mortality but placing it second to the happiness of his family. That shows a wonderful strength of character.

A diagnosis of terminal cancer is the dread of all of us, and it would be so easy to wallow in self-pity. But that is not his way, and that has been recognised by the army of readers who were touched by his story.

Social media is often criticised as a vehicle for malcontents, but it is also an effective tool for rallying people to a good cause, as has been amply demonstrated in this instance.

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