Musical star on the ball to help save Patricia's threatened wildlife refuge
A groundswell of support is growing to save a wildlife hospital that is threatened with closure.
And now musical star Peter Corry is among those who have stepped up to raise money for TACT (Talnotry Avian Care Trust) centre in Crumlin after its plight was raised by the Belfast Telegraph.
Animal lovers responded with shock after we highlighted the uncertain future facing the Co Antrim wildlife hospital which has saved thousands of sick and abandoned animals since it was founded 30 years ago by Patricia Nevines.
Patricia will be guest of honour at a gala ball which is being organised to raise money so that the animal welfare work done there can continue.
She fears that TACT, which is currently caring for around 150 stricken animals, could be forced to close its doors this summer after she retires.
Patricia, who turns 80 this spring, is keen to lease out the property to anyone who wants to continue the work of the centre, but says £1,000 a week is needed to keep it running. It is understood that friends of TACT are trying put together a formal fundraising committee.
After learning about the plight of the centre, Ramada Plaza Shaws Bridge sales manager Julie Fitzsimmons decided to organise a charity gala ball in a bid to raise money to help keep it going.
It came after Patricia took in a stranded hedgehog Julie had found in her garden.
"I found this little hedgehog curled up in a ball outside my back, so I took it to TACT. I have two cats so it took a big risk coming into my garden," Julie explained.
"I've been brought up to treat animals with respect, so my daughter and I headed up to Crumlin with the hedgehog and we were really impressed with what we saw. I just knew that it would be taken care of.
"That's the thing I love about Patricia, she will just take all the animals in. She has dedicated her life to animals. We need to have a centre like this in Northern Ireland – otherwise what happens to the animals?"
Julie says that in her role at the Ramada, she helps charities to put on large fundraising events so she decided to put her skills to use to help TACT, organising A Night At The Theatre, a gala evening, which will begin with a drinks reception followed by a four-course gourmet meal.
Songs from famous musicals will be performed by a special musical group directed by Peter Corr (left), while Julie is also in talks to get a big name to perform a DJ set as part of the entertainment for the evening.
Everything from graphic design to audio visual work and chair covers have been supplied for free.
Tickets for the gala ball, which will take place on Friday, May 30 at Ramada Plaza Belfast, have already started to sell and Julie says word is spreading quickly on social media.
"Facebook has been amazing for spreading the news. I've connected with so many animal people and a lot of them want to go," she said.
"I'm hoping to go up to TACT and make a little amateur video of the work they do which can be shown on the night."