Belfast Telegraph

'We miss her so much... but it spurs us on to know that Charlene will be with us in spirit'

By Claire McNeilly

Bethany Barr will be thinking of only one person when today's Hockey Schools' Cup final gets under way.

The 17-year-old Lurgan College pupil lost her beloved sister Charlene in October 2010 after she passed away from cystic fibrosis aged just 20.

Before she died, Charlene made her three sisters – Bethany, Serena and Natalie – promise they would help their team lift the illustrious trophy.

They did just that – in 2011, when Lurgan College girls beat Wallace High in the final of Belfast Telegraph's Senior Schools' Cup.

"Two years ago, when we won, it was so special," said co-captain Bethany, whose twin Serena will again be joining her on the team.

"Charlene was very sick but she refused to miss our first round match and she came out of hospital to see it.

"On the way home afterwards, even though she was so ill, she told us she knew Lurgan College were going to win the cup that year.

"After she died we decided that we had to win for her because she never missed a hockey match. It helped us a lot."

Last season, Lurgan College once again made the final, but lost to Ballyclare High, and Bethany said that, this time round, she is hoping for better luck.

"A game like today makes you think of Charlene a lot more. We miss her so much, but if she was here she would tell us just to do our best," Bethany said.

"It's really difficult, but it spurs us on to know that she is with us in spirit and we will all be trying to make her proud today."

Charlene passed away at her home in Dollingstown, Co Armagh, surrounded by her parents and five siblings, after having raised more than £120,000 to build a school for under-privileged children in Uganda. Her charity work began in 2009 after a visit to Hidden Treasures primary school in Maya, a remote village in the east African country, and she established Charlene's Project as a community fundraising group aimed at building a bigger and better school.

Bethany said that, this summer, she was planning a visit to Uganda, where she feels almost as close to her as she does on the hockey pitch.

"She was our number one supporter and there definitely is a hole in our lives since she's been gone, but it helps us knowing that Charlene's spirit lives on in Uganda because of the work she has done," she said.

"Our family are going out there and we're really looking forward to that because we know that we're going out to her.

"Time does heal and as time goes on you just are thankful for the time you had together and the memories that you do hold precious."

During today's match against Victoria College at Lisnagarvey, Hillsborough, Bethany said that although Charlene might not be there in person, she won't be far away.

"We were one-nil down in the semi-final four weeks ago when it started to rain and that stopped play," she said.

"In the end we won, but we really needed that break... afterwards, Serena and I joked about how Charlene had a hand in it by sending that rain when we needed it!"


Charlene's Project was set up in 2009 after founder Charlene Barr was inspired by a visit to Maya in Uganda. She set a fundraising target of £70,000. After this was raised in just five months, Charlene increased her target to £120,000 to build a well and to provide teachers. Despite Charlene's death in October 2010, building on the Hidden Treasures primary school continues today. For information on how to donate, visit

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