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Marissa Callaghan and Tommy Bowe champion charity that gives ill local children magical Christmas encounters

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Northern Ireland Children to Lapland and Days to Remember Trust (NICTL) charity ambassador, Northern Ireland Women’s Football Team captain, Marissa Callaghan and charity ‘elf’ Charlie Martin making a special delivery to Matti Pospiech. Photo credit: Declan Roughan Photography

Northern Ireland Children to Lapland and Days to Remember Trust (NICTL) charity ambassador, Northern Ireland Women’s Football Team captain, Marissa Callaghan and charity ‘elf’ Charlie Martin making a special delivery to Matti Pospiech. Photo credit: Declan Roughan Photography

Northern Ireland Children to Lapland and Days to Remember Trust President, television broadcaster, Gerry Kelly with the charity’s new ambassadors - Ireland’s number one country singing star Nathan Carter and former Ulster, Ireland and British and Irish Lions rugby ace Tommy Bowe. Photo credit: Declan Roughan

Northern Ireland Children to Lapland and Days to Remember Trust President, television broadcaster, Gerry Kelly with the charity’s new ambassadors - Ireland’s number one country singing star Nathan Carter and former Ulster, Ireland and British and Irish Lions rugby ace Tommy Bowe. Photo credit: Declan Roughan

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Northern Ireland Children to Lapland and Days to Remember Trust (NICTL) charity ambassador, Northern Ireland Women’s Football Team captain, Marissa Callaghan and charity ‘elf’ Charlie Martin making a special delivery to Matti Pospiech. Photo credit: Declan Roughan Photography

Northern Ireland women’s football captain Marissa Callaghan and ex-Ulster rugby star Tommy Bowe are among some famous faces to become new ambassadors for a local charity that gives ill children the best Christmas experiences.

The Northern Ireland Children to Lapland and Days to Remember Trust (NICLT) has embarked on the second year of its Three Steps to Christmas Campaign.

The initiative was launched last year after the charity’s usual annual Lapland trip had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In previous years, the non-profit organisation would have taken 100 local children with life-threatening or debilitating conditions to Lapland for a visit to Santa himself.

For the last two years, the charity has instead raised funds to give 100 vulnerable children a new experience, including a detailed personal letter, video and visit from Santa, and a gift to the value of £200, all received in the safety of their own homes.

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The children on the receiving end of the magical encounter have all been nominated by the paediatric departments and hospitals across Northern Ireland.

Marissa Callaghan, who has been to the fore in helping NI historically qualify for the 2022 Euros, said: “In May of this year, Josh Eastwood from Donaghadee ran a marathon every day to raise funds for the NI Children to Lapland Trust and Cancer Research.

“I was asked to run with him one day for some moral support and that’s when I first learned about the work the charity does and met the people involved. After that I just wanted to do more for what is a very special charity and I am really looking forward to helping deliver some presents this year.”

The midfielder has joined Bowe, country music star Nathan Carter and TV broadcaster Gerry Kelly - who is also the current NICLT president - to support the charity’s drive to raise funds for the children it supports not just this Christmas, but all year round.

The festive campaign also sees siblings of those affected by illness and/or disability receive smaller gifts.

The initiative will be broadened this Christmas to include children who attend the NI Children’s Hospice, where gifts of sensory equipment will also be sent there and to each of the eight Special Paediatric Units across Northern Ireland.

NICLT chair Colin Barkley welcomed the new high-profile personalities.

“Having a well-known face help front a charity gives it tremendous reach and piques interest from potential supporters. Acting as an ambassador for us will produce immeasurable benefits for the charity,” he said.

“Tommy, Nathan and Marissa are big stars in their respective domains and command attention for their admirable talents rightfully so, so to allow us to share some of their limelight and help spread the word of the work NICLT does and help drive forward our campaign is fantastic, especially as we begin our Three Steps to Christmas Campaign.

“This year the drive will need more support given we are expanding its reach to include eight paediatric units across Northern Ireland. Each of those units and the NI Children’s Hospice will receive sensory toys and equipment which best suit their needs, and at a cost from £800 to £1100. The campaign will also be supported by a host of corporate sponsors, each of which will sponsor a specific unit.”

Bowe added that he was “blown away” by the work the organisation does and is “delighted” to be involved.

“Last year, I was lucky enough to deliver some toys and to see the joy on the faces of the young people was a really humbling experience. As a father of two young children myself, I can’t imagine what the families are going through,” said the former Ireland winger.

The charity’s president Gerry Kelly added: “We would like to thank all those who continue to raise funds for us and donate during this challenging time.

“We receive no Government or Lottery funding and everything we do is entirely self-funded, relying on the generosity of individuals and companies across NI.

“We count ourselves very fortunate to have our fund-raising teams in Carrickfergus, North Down and the North Coast and our Corporate Partners, The Bushmills Inn, Glens of Antrim Potatoes, C-Tec (NI) in Newry, Hagan Homes, Wineflair, Barclay Communications, CosyRoof and Bells Crossgar Motors by our side.”

“Their ongoing support once again this year, allows us to start making even more ambitious plans for 2022, which, if circumstances allow, we hope will include taking an even larger group than originally anticipated to Disneyland in Paris as well as our annual trip to Lapland.”

To find out more about the charity click on https://www.niclt.org/ or follow on Facebook @childrentolaplandtrust


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