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Giving young people with cancer chance to smile ‘helps keep Amy Reid’s memory alive’

Charity offers free home for families to stay close to their child during treatment while raising thousands for research

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Amy Ellen Reid

Amy Ellen Reid

Amy’s parents Mark and Jean, and sister Emma, outside Amy's House

Amy’s parents Mark and Jean, and sister Emma, outside Amy's House

Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX

Amy’s parents and sister, Mark and Jean Reid, and Emma McGrady with her husband Stuart and their children, Logan (9), Lewis (7) and Jason with singer Mike Donaghy (left) and Jorja Wallis-McKimm who received a 'smile grant'

Amy’s parents and sister, Mark and Jean Reid, and Emma McGrady with her husband Stuart and their children, Logan (9), Lewis (7) and Jason with singer Mike Donaghy (left) and Jorja Wallis-McKimm who received a 'smile grant'

Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX

Amy Ellen Reid passed away 2013 when she was 20 years old

Amy Ellen Reid passed away 2013 when she was 20 years old

Amy (second from right) with her mum Jean (far left), her dad Mark and sister Emma

Amy (second from right) with her mum Jean (far left), her dad Mark and sister Emma

Amy's House, at College Gardens, Belfast

Amy's House, at College Gardens, Belfast

Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX

Amy's House, at College Gardens, Belfast

Amy's House, at College Gardens, Belfast

Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX

Amy’s parents and sister, Mark and Jean Reid, and Emma McGrady

Amy’s parents and sister, Mark and Jean Reid, and Emma McGrady

Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX

Amy Reid

Amy Reid

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Amy Ellen Reid

A special charity, established in memory of a kind-hearted young woman who passed away from cancer eight years ago, is helping to support other children and young people affected by cancer across Northern Ireland by helping them to “smile”.

Love Amy was set up by the Reid family from Newtownards in memory of Amy Ellen Reid, who passed away in 2013 when she was just 20 years old.

Her father Mark said that he named the charity Love Amy after her because of a special birthday card he received shortly before she died.

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Amy’s parents and sister, Mark and Jean Reid, and Emma McGrady with her husband Stuart and their children, Logan (9), Lewis (7) and Jason with singer Mike Donaghy (left) and Jorja Wallis-McKimm who received a 'smile grant'

Amy’s parents and sister, Mark and Jean Reid, and Emma McGrady with her husband Stuart and their children, Logan (9), Lewis (7) and Jason with singer Mike Donaghy (left) and Jorja Wallis-McKimm who received a 'smile grant'

Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX

Amy’s parents and sister, Mark and Jean Reid, and Emma McGrady with her husband Stuart and their children, Logan (9), Lewis (7) and Jason with singer Mike Donaghy (left) and Jorja Wallis-McKimm who received a 'smile grant'

“I had a significant birthday before Amy passed away,” he explained.

“She signed the card ‘To Dad, Love Amy’ and the words ‘love Amy’ just kept going around in my head, so when we decided to start the charity in her memory, Love Amy just stood out.

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Amy Ellen Reid passed away 2013 when she was 20 years old

Amy Ellen Reid passed away 2013 when she was 20 years old

Amy Ellen Reid passed away 2013 when she was 20 years old

“Every year in the UK, 3,600 people under the age of 25 are diagnosed with cancer and, while we didn’t expect to be told this about Amy, we want to make sure we are here to support anyone who receives this tragic news.”

The charity, which was officially set up in 2018, not only helps to raise funds for vital cancer research through various initiatives, but it also helps to provide “smile grants” to help other families whose relatives have been diagnosed with cancer.

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Amy (second from right) with her mum Jean (far left), her dad Mark and sister Emma

Amy (second from right) with her mum Jean (far left), her dad Mark and sister Emma

Amy (second from right) with her mum Jean (far left), her dad Mark and sister Emma

“When we send out smile grants, we do it with love from Amy, at the end of the day this is all from her, because this was all done in her memory,” explained her sister Emma McGrady.

“We have been fundraising since 2013 and have given out about £20,000 to both cancer research in Belfast and also in smile grants to people affected by cancer.

“People use the money to pay for a range of things, whether it be a holiday or toys or even clothes or a bike, whatever it is that makes them smile, it’s totally up to them,” she added.

“Some months we could give out up to 10 or 15 grants to families.”

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Amy's House, at College Gardens, Belfast

Amy's House, at College Gardens, Belfast

Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX

Amy's House, at College Gardens, Belfast

Her dad Mark added that giving out these smile grants “make it all worthwhile”.

“When we give these grants to a young person who has either been diagnosed or whose family member has been delivered this devastating news, it is just so rewarding,” he said.

“We have heard such great feedback from people who have received them, we sometimes even get photos of what they’ve spent the grant on and to see the smile on their face just brings me to tears, it’s so lovely to see.

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Amy Reid

Amy Reid

Amy Reid

“All we want to do is to bring smiles to the faces of those affected by cancer.”

Newtownards girl Jorja Wallis-McKimm was just seven years old when she and her two brothers received a smile grant each when their mother was diagnosed with brain cancer.

Now 12, Jorja said that the smile grant made her “so happy”.

“The first thing I wanted to buy was a bag of ice cubes,” she said.

“Then I went to Build-A-Bear and I called the bear Skye-Amy. I was so happy to receive my smile grant and it really helped me.”

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Amy’s parents and sister, Mark and Jean Reid, and Emma McGrady

Amy’s parents and sister, Mark and Jean Reid, and Emma McGrady

Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX

Amy’s parents and sister, Mark and Jean Reid, and Emma McGrady

Emma said that her sister Amy was a keen fundraiser for cancer research throughout her own journey.

“We want to tell Amy’s story through this charity, how she encouraged us, how she inspired us and how she fought through the biggest fight she had ever been through and she done it with a smile on her face, and how all she wanted to do was help others,” she said.

“CLIC Sargent was a charity she was very supportive of, it is now called Young Lives Vs Cancer, which helps to provide vital support to young people affected by cancer.

“They provide ‘Homes from Home’ near hospitals so families who have to travel to undergo treatment do not have to stay in the hospital and can have some sort of normality,” she added.

“We continued fundraising after Amy passed away and the charity ended up opening a house in Belfast named after her.”

Amy’s House is owned by Young Lives Vs Cancer and was officially opened in 2016 and located only a few minutes’ walk from Belfast City Hospital so that families can stay close by while loved ones are undergoing treatment.

According to the Young Lives Vs Cancer website, the longest stay in this house was 322 days in 2019/20 and from 2019 to 2020, 48 families stayed at Amy’s House.

One of the main ways Love Amy raises funds is through AER Music, a sister initiative which supports and provides a platform for up-and-coming musicians.

The family set up AER music, named after her initials Amy Ellen Reid, at the same time as Love Amy in January 2014 because of Amy’s love of music.

AER music helps to support grassroots songwriters and musicians and, after almost 20 months without live music, is hoping to see a return to live music events soon.

Mark said: “Through AER we wanted to help showcase and provide a platform for songwriters and musicians just starting out. Amy loved going to concerts and listening to music.

“Through this initiative, we can keep Amy’s memory alive through her love of music and know that her memory has lived on to support and help others.

“We hope that by keeping her at the fore of these events, we can share Amy’s story and inspire others in the same position.”

Prior to the pandemic, these events were one of the main ways that the family raised money to support cancer research.

“We normally ran an event every month, everything from coffee shop gigs to other sessions helping to provide a platform to musicians,” said Mark.

During lockdown they ran a number of online events and fundraisers but hope to return to live events soon.

The Reid family is thankful for everyone who has supported the charity to date and hope to welcome supporters to upcoming events soon.

If you would like to donate or find out more, you can visit the http://loveamy.co.uk/ and the https://aermusicni.weebly.com/ websites

You can also follow @LoveAmyNI and @AERmusicni on Facebook and Instagram


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