Family of Kevin King killed by heart defect mark his 23rd birthday with gala ball
The family of a young GAA star who died suddenly last November will mark his birthday with a huge gala ball at which a film of his remarkable life will be shown for the first time.
Kevin King lost his life during an indoor soccer match with friends in November as a result of a rare and difficult-to-detect heart condition called myocardial fibrosis, leaving his family, friends and the GAA fraternity in deep pain.
Since his tragic and shocking death, his parents, John and Margaret, and brother Martin have help raise £25,000 in his memory for the British Heart Foundation, but that total is set to swell with this weekend's event.
More than 200 people have signed up for the KK Classic golf day at Foyle Golf Club, which will be followed by a King of Hearts gala ball in the Everglades Hotel that has already sold out.
Kerry GAA legend Tomas O Se and Ireland rugby star Stephen Ferris will be special guests at the ball.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Kevin's brother said the family wanted to do something positive to mark the birthday.
"Saturday will be Kevin's 23rd birthday, but he won't be here with us to celebrate, and that is the sad part we are still struggling with," Martin said.
"But no one liked to be at the centre of things as much as Kevin, so this will be our way of celebrating his life.
"Our cousin, Stephen, wanted to organise a sporting event that lots of people could take part in Kevin's name, and he came up with the idea of the golf day and then we thought about the gala ball.
"That was two months ago, which, when you think about it, it was a bit crazy to think about getting a venue for a Saturday night and a band.
"We went from struggling to finding a hotel at all to getting the Everglades, which has a huge ballroom capable of taking 400 people.
"We also had no band to play either, but then out of nowhere the Mindbenders were able to perform.
"All this led me to think that Kevin is somehow lending us a helping hand, so we are pretty confident things will all fall into place on Saturday."
The family's huge fundraising for the British Heart Foundation has been gratefully received by the organisation, which has produced a film about Kevin's life and legacy that will be shown for the first time at the gala ball.
Martin said that his family was proud to help the organisation.
"All the people who have made a donation to it in Kevin's memory will get the chance to hear first-hand how the money raised will help save lives," he added.
"They have compiled a film about Kevin, his early life, his GAA life and the incredible response to his death.
"Professor Houman Ashrafian, who leads British Heart Foundation-funded research into myocardial fibrosis at the University of Oxford and is a consultant cardiologist at Oxford's John Radcliffe Hospital, will speak at the ball to let people know how their funds are helping.
"We never set out on a huge fundraising campaign - we started out by asking people to make a donation in lieu of family flowers at the funeral - but so many people wanted to acknowledge Kevin that it has just grown and grown."
Staff and volunteers from the British Heart Foundation will also be on hand to give demonstrations on CPR to those taking part in the golf day.
Jayne Murray, the local head of the charity, said: "We have been inspired and humbled by the depth of the generosity of Kevin's family and friends and by their determination to save lives through funding our research.
"It will be a special day for Derry this weekend, and we are honoured to play a part in it."
If anyone would like to donate to the British Heart Foundation campaign in Kevin's memory, go to giftofhope.bhf.org.uk/In-Memory/Kevin-King