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Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust: Dad who turned tragedy into force for good with charity is honoured by Theresa May

 

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Colin and Eithne Bell with a picture of their son Kevin

Colin and Eithne Bell with a picture of their son Kevin

Theresa May

Theresa May

PA

Colin after couple’s EuroMillions win last year

Colin after couple’s EuroMillions win last year

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Colin and Eithne Bell with a picture of their son Kevin

A Newry man whose charity helps bereaved families bring home the remains of their loved ones from abroad has received a prestigious award from the Prime Minister.

Colin Bell is the latest recipient of the Point of Light award in recognition of his work with The Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust, which has repatriated hundreds of local people who have died overseas since it was founded in 2013.

He established the trust in memory of his 26-year-old son Kevin, who died when he was hit by a car in New York five years ago.

After Kevin was brought home to Co Down with the help of over £100,000 raised through donations, Mr Bell decided to use the excess funds to support families who have found themselves in similar situations.

Since then the charity has assisted nearly 500 individuals who have died overseas, often suddenly or in tragic circumstances.

The accolade aims to recognise outstanding volunteers who are making a change in their community and inspiring others.

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In a letter personally written by Theresa May to Mr Bell, the Prime Minister paid tribute to his efforts in assisting families in the midst of a traumatic experience.

"By establishing The Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust you have turned a personal tragedy into a force for good, assisting hundreds of families going through the traumatic experience of bringing the body of a loved one home," said Mrs May.

"You should feel incredibly proud of the work you are doing in Kevin's memory to support grieving families across Northern Ireland and Ireland."

The charity helped bring home Co Down father Conal McKee (26), who died in Florida earlier this month and was laid to rest in Dundrum last weekend.

Speaking yesterday, Mr Bell - who with his wife Eithne, a retired nursery school worker, won £1m in the EuroMillions in June 2017 - said he was delighted that the trust's work had been acknowledged by the Prime Minister.

"It's a shock, but a very pleasant one," said the former teacher.

"It's all our Kevin's work.

"After he was killed this is legacy and it's something we're very proud of."

Mr Bell said the public support shown to the trust meant it has never needed to rely on Government funding.

"It's amazing, it shows you the strength of the community in Northern Ireland and down south. It really shows the good of people in the worst of times," he said.

He added that he hoped the recognition would encourage groups in England, Scotland and Wales who are in the process of setting up similar charities modelled on The Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust.

Mr Bell is the 983rd winner of the Points of Light award, which has been developed in partnership with the hugely successful Points of Light programme in the USA.

Newry and Armagh MP Mickey Brady said it was "truly inspirational" for the couple to be recognised for their "essential" charity work.

He said: "The Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust is there to help families at a time of great distress and when help is most crucially needed.

"I commend them and the trust's volunteers for this great work and for the practical and emotional support they provide for families at the time of greatest need. They are shining examples to us all."


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