Belfast Telegraph

Charitable Northern Ireland stars pay special visit to young cancer sufferers

By Laure James

Northern Ireland's football stars have spoken of their honour at helping families devastated by childhood cancer diagnosis.

Gareth McAuley and Niall McGinn joined their international team-mates at the Cancer Fund for Children's Daisy Lodge respite centre in Newcastle on Sunday.

They made some young dreams come true as they met and enjoyed some time out with thrilled youngsters.

Each of the 23 players in Michael O'Neill's squad donated their match fees from Euro 2016, helping to bring the total raised so far to over £50,000. Collections at fan zones during the tournament also helped to boost the total so far.

The money will go towards offering practical, emotional and financial support as well as free, short therapeutic breaks to local families whose lives have been affected by cancer.

West Brom defender McAuley has also donated his match shirt from Northern Ireland's 2-0 win over Ukraine, in which he scored the historic opening goal.

"It is a total pleasure. It's only a token really, but it's clearly greatly appreciated and that's nice," said McAuley.

"I think we decided it was a good charity because a lot of us have children and the difference this place can make to kids is something which touched us and is something we wanted to help out with.

"I have been lucky enough to get a lot of things in football, a lot of memories. So to give a little back and help people is great.

"I thought it would be nice if someone can win my shirt, we didn't want to put it into an auction. It will be raffled and everyone will have a chance to win it, so hopefully it will go to a really good place."

The charity has highlighted how another three children, teenagers and young people are diagnosed with cancer every week.

Aberdeen winger McGinn said visiting some of Northern Ireland's most poorly children was a humbling experience.

"It's great for us to come here and take time out, it's been a busy time, but coming here helps to put things into perspective," he said. "It is quite humbling. It's a fantastic facility and you can see how it helps people at difficult times in their lives.

"It's great that we can come down here, show our faces and put a smile on the kids' faces too.

"It was noted before the Euros that this would be a great charity to support and Rory McIlroy's obviously done a lot to help as well, so to give up a few match fees is great for us to be able to do.

"It was a no-brainer and we can see how that helps the charity now, in terms of improving the facilities and supporting those involved. It's definitely good for us to have played a part."

  • Fans can take part in the raffle with a chance of winning Gareth McAuley's signed shirt by visiting

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