Over £5k raised for children orphaned after Belfast mum's death
A kind-hearted east Belfast community has been digging deep to help make Christmas special for three primary school children orphaned after the sudden death of their mother last month.
Sandra Todd, originally from Antrim but who had been living in the Braniel, died on November 28 from a respiratory condition. With her husband Stephen passing away three years ago, her children have been left without both parents just a few weeks before Christmas.
Friends of Sandra, whose children Corey, Keegan and Joni Todd are all pupils at Braniel Primary School, have been raising money to help fund Christmas treats for the kids.
Organising the fundraising campaign, Sandra's friend since school Elaine Houston said she has been overwhelmed by the generosity of the community, which has so far raised almost £6,000 to donate to the Christmas fund.
Having already been robbed of their father Stephen, who had suffered from motor neurone disease, the children are now being cared for by relatives.
Elaine said she was moved to try to do something to give the children a Christmas they deserved.
"I'd known Sandra since school," she said. "She was a lovely, caring mother who would have done anything for her children.
"To see the kids losing her after their father had already passed away was heartbreaking.
"I really wanted to do something to give them a Christmas and I've been amazed at the response."
Elaine's GoFundMe campaign is sitting at well over £5,000, far in excess of the £1,000 she initially hoped to raise.
She added: "Sandra would have taken them everywhere at Christmas.
"It was always a special time for them as a family.
"All the money received will be going directly to making Christmas as special as possible for the three of them." Elaine said she plans to deliver presents bought through donations to her campaign this weekend, but there will also be more surprises in the future for the children thanks to the generosity of so many.
"We'll make sure there are some lovely day trips so the three of them know they're still very much loved and cared for," she said.
"I'm sure everyone can appreciate they have been through an incredibly difficult time.
"They are still trying to make sense of their world without both parents, but with love and support we will ensure they are looked after.
"Sandra has left a massive space in the lives of her friends so it's difficult to comprehend what it must be like for three children to lose their mum so suddenly, especially after what happened to their family before."
Braniel Loyal Flute Band have also been a huge support in helping to raise funds for the family.
Instead of holding their final band practice of the year, members set out on a door-to-door collection and Elaine said she is stunned at the generosity shown by everyone so close to Christmas.
"A huge thank-you is due to everyone who has helped," she said.
"Widowed with three young children, Sandra fought tirelessly to provide for her children.
"When her friends needed someone, she was always there for them. Now I want to be there for her children in any small way I can, with the support of the community.
"Braniel Primary School has been fantastic in helping the children through, and there are so many others who have donated who all need to know that their kindness is greatly appreciated and will all go towards helping three wonderful children come to terms with the lose of both parents."
To help Elaine's campaign visit the GoFundMe website and search Elaine Houston or Sarah (Johnston) Todd Memorial Fund.