Woman Of The Year 2014 - Mum: Catherine McFerran brings hope with son's legacy

Belfast Telegraph Mum of the Year winner: Catherine McFerran (left) at the  
Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year Awards in Association with THE OUTLET, Banbridge at the Ramada Hotel in Belfast
Belfast Telegraph Mum of the Year winner: Catherine McFerran (left) at the Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year Awards in Association with THE OUTLET, Banbridge at the Ramada Hotel in Belfast
Overall Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year winner Una Crudden
Overall Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year winner Una Crudden
Deputy Editor Gail Walker addresses the Woman of the Year gala dinner
Guests listen as Deputy Editor Gail Walker opens the proceedings
Overall Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year winner Una Crudden with her daughter Lisa McGarry
Overall Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year winner: Una Crudden with her husband Felix
Overall Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year winner: Una Crudden (second from right) with sponsor Siobhan McKeown and Chris Nelmes from The OUTLET and Belfast Telegraph editor Mike Gilson
Inspirational Woman of the Year Margaret McGuckin
Inspirational Woman of the Year Margaret McGuckin, centre, with Gemma Bell, Diageo, and Wendy Austin, left
Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year in Hair, Beauty and Fashion. Winner: Leisa Stafford (left)
Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year in Education. Winner: Mary Roulston (left)
Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year in the Voluntary Sector. Winner: Rachel Smith (centre)
Belfast Telegraph Businesswoman of the Year winner: Claire Hunter (left)
Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year in the Arts. Winner: Sinead Morrissey (left)
Woman of the Year in the Health Sector. Winner: Dr Madeleine Rooney (left)
Belfast Telegraph Sportswoman of the Year winner: Ulster players of the Ireland Women's Rugby - Rosie Baxter, left, mother of Ashleigh Baxter collects award on behalf of the girls. Presented by: Squadron Leader Jacs Rankin, Executive Officer on 502 (Ulster) Squadron, RAF Reserves.
Richard Kane and Leona Kane at Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year Awards in Association with THE OUTLET, Banbridge at the Ramada Hotel in Belfast
Lisa and Glen McLarnon at Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year Awards in Association with THE OUTLET, Banbridge at the Ramada Hotel in Belfast
Alison and Will Abernethy at Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year Awards in Association with THE OUTLET, Banbridge at the Ramada Hotel in Belfast
Belfast Telegraph's editor Mike Gilson, Jan Jack and Siobhan McKeown at Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year Awards in Association with THE OUTLET, Banbridge at the Ramada Hotel in Belfast
Katie McKernan and Paul Stafford at Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year Awards in Association with THE OUTLET, Banbridge at the Ramada Hotel in Belfast
Diane Baxter, Rosie Baxter and Hazel Whan at Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year Awards in Association with THE OUTLET, Banbridge at the Ramada Hotel in Belfast
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 27th February 2014 - Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye. Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year Awards in Association with THE OUTLET, Banbridge at the Ramada Hotel in Belfast. Siobhan McKeown, Sarah Weir and Karen McGarvey
Siobhan McKeown, Sarah Weir and Karen McGarvey at Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year Awards in Association with THE OUTLET, Banbridge at the Ramada Hotel in Belfast
Kate Thompson, John Miskelly and Victoria Carrigan at Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year Awards in Association with THE OUTLET, Banbridge at the Ramada Hotel in Belfast
Joanne Dobson and Chris Nelmes at Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year Awards in Association with THE OUTLET, Banbridge at the Ramada Hotel in Belfast
Kathy O'Neill and Joanne Magee at Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year Awards in Association with THE OUTLET, Banbridge at the Ramada Hotel in Belfast
Katie Richardson and Holly Anne Lowden at Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year Awards in Association with THE OUTLET, Banbridge at the Ramada Hotel in Belfast.
Joanne Uprichard, Irene Fitzsimons, Karen McGarvey, Pauline Moore and Sarah Little at Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year Awards in Association with THE OUTLET, Banbridge at the Ramada Hotel in Belfast
Cara Gribben, Emma Gribben and Sarah Gribben at Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year Awards in Association with THE OUTLET, Banbridge at the Ramada Hotel in Belfast
Cara Gribben, Maria Burke, Sharon Barrett, Emma Gribben and Sarah Gribben at Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year Awards in Association with THE OUTLET, Banbridge at the Ramada Hotel in Belfast
Elaine Waterworth, Chris Nelmes, Oonagh Haughian and Meilynn Cheung at Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year Awards in Association with THE OUTLET, Banbridge at the Ramada Hotel in Belfast
Mary and Norman Adams at Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year Awards in Association with THE OUTLET, Banbridge at the Ramada Hotel in Belfast
Alison and Will Abernethy at Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year Awards in Association with THE OUTLET, Banbridge at the Ramada Hotel in Belfast.
Noella McConnell Logue and Conor McCafferty at the Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year Awards in Association with THE OUTLET, Banbridge at the Ramada Hotel in Belfast
Tracy and Joe Donnelly at the Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year Awards in Association with THE OUTLET, Banbridge at the Ramada Hotel in Belfast
Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year in Education winner: Mary Roulston. Presented by D Sarah Little, Commercial Director, Belfast Telegraph
Ramada Hotel staff at the Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year Awards in Association with THE OUTLET, Banbridge at the Ramada Hotel in Belfast.
Gemma Bell and Karen Laverty at Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year Awards in Association with THE OUTLET, Banbridge at the Ramada Hotel in Belfast.
Shauna Ross and Francine Gormley at the Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year Awards in Association with THE OUTLET, Banbridge at the Ramada Hotel in Belfast.
Violet Malcolmson and Karen Gamble at the Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year Awards in Association with THE OUTLET, Banbridge at the Ramada Hotel in Belfast. Guests from Diageo. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Melissa McCready - Shaw and Olivia Mehaffey at the Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year Awards in Association with THE OUTLET, Banbridge at the Ramada Hotel in Belfast. Guests from Diageo. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Eugene and Gerardine Kielt at the Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year Awards in Association with THE OUTLET, Banbridge at the Ramada Hotel in Belfast. Guests from Diageo. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year Awards in Association with THE OUTLET, Banbridge at the Ramada Hotel in Belfast. Guests from Diageo. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

After the horror of losing her teenage son to carbon monoxide poisoning, Catherine McFerran was determined that no other parent should endure the pain she faced.

The 2014 Belfast Telegraph Mum of the Year winner suffered every parent’s worst nightmare when her son Neil (right) and his friend Aaron Davidson, both 18, died from carbon monoxide poisoning while on a holiday in Castlerock in August 2010.

Since their devastating loss, Catherine and Aaron’s mum, Katrina Davidson, have saved countless lives through the Gis A Hug Foundation, which they set up in memory of their sons.

The charity aims to ensure that no other lives are senselessly lost, by raising awareness of this silent killer and also distributing carbon monoxide monitors.

Catherine’s efforts have also seen the law changed so that it is now compulsory for every new-build home to have a carbon monoxide alarm fitted.

Catherine, from Newtownabbey, who works full-time and has three other children Jonathan (35), Stephen (26) and Jillian (24), devotes all of her spare time to the charity, which has given out thousands of alarms to the elderly, students and those vulnerable in our society.

It also aims to highlight the importance of having fuel-burning appliances serviced annually.

The Gis A Hug Foundation was named because Neil loved to give everyone hugs.

Picking up our award, Catherine said: “I couldn’t believe it, I just felt overwhelmed.

“I really thought, ‘it definitely will not be me’ and I was enjoying the night out with the family and was happy enough just to be there because it was such a lovely night.

“It was fantastic and lovely to hear so many inspirational stories. Everyone deserved an award.”

Neil and Aaron had been on a break in Castlerock before getting their exam results when they were poisoned by carbon monoxide because of a defective flue from a gas boiler.

They died on August 3, 2010, and were found by their parents, who went to the seaside town when they were unable to contact their sons.

Their friend, Matthew Gaw, was resuscitated by paramedics.

In January of this year, Londonderry man George Brown, who fitted the faulty boiler in the apartment where the boys were staying, admitted to causing their deaths. The charity in Neil’s memory has to date distributed 6,500 alarms to students, the vulnerable and elderly people in our society.

And Catherine says she won’t rest until every home is fitted with one.

She is constantly giving talks to schools, colleges and church and community groups on the dangers of carbon monoxide and the importance of having an alarm.

Life without Neil is still a struggle but the charity has given her and her family something to focus on.

She said: “It’s unbelievably difficult every day to keep going, but the charity is such a positive thing and that’s what sustains us.

“We started out thinking that to be able to save just one life would be great, but we know from feedback that we have saved a number of lives.

“There are still a lot of people who aren’t aware of the dangers.

“You can’t see it, you can’t smell it and without an alarm, you have no way of knowing it’s there.”

‘We started out thinking that to be able to save just one life would be great, but we know from feedback that we have saved a number of lives. The charity sustains us’

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