The family of a Derry 13-year-old who died from cancer last year have said they are very proud that his memory will be enshrined at a new ‘home from home’ which has just opened for young adults being treated for the condition.
Caolán McCrossan now has a room named in his honour at the new Amy’s House building in Belfast.
His family and friends were in attendance as the ribbon was cut and the new facility opened last week by CLIC Sargent to provide greater support for children and young people in Northern Ireland with cancer.
Talented St Columb’s College student and athlete Caolán died of cancer on February 17, 2015, just a few months after his illness was diagnosed.
During his young life, Caolán made a lasting impression on all who met him, as is borne out by the myriad of events staged in his memory since his passing.
He was gifted in academic, sporting and musical pursuits, and was a member of Doire CholmCille GAC, Oxford FC and Culmore FC.
Caolán’s parents came to realise just how vital the services provided by CLIC Sargent were during Caolán’s illness.
His father Sean said: “CLIC Sargent have built a second home to support young adults close to the City Hospital. The younger ones go to the Royal Children’s Hospital on the Fall’s Road and the charity previously opened Paul’s House there, which is the one we stayed in.
“They have now honoured Caolán and honoured us by naming a room in his memory.
“It is very fitting for this as his first anniversary approaches. We are truly honoured to have Caolán’s memory permanently attached to something positive.
“We were up there for the opening with other parents of children who had passed away with cancer. We feel very thankful for this and for what CLIC Sargent are doing for families.
“There are so many children with cancer and people don’t know the impact it has and how many families are affected until they are touched by it.”
Mr McCrossan said that, when a child is diagnosed with cancer, one of the things that is rarely factored in at first is the financial burden, particularly on those from the North West who have to pay for accommodation, travel and subsistence while a child is receiving treatment in Belfast.
“Within five days, we had spent £600 between bed and breakfast and car parking etc.,” he said. “We only realised this afterwards.
“Being a self-employed businessman, when you are not working you are not earning at all and, initially, I was reluctant to accept help But, now, looking back I don’t know how we would have got through things at that time without that support.
“Caolán was in hospital for nine weeks and our family had the use of a home from home in Paul’s House in the Falls Road, adjacent to the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children.
“It’s also used for children who were able to, maybe, go for a few hours and play the X box or hang out in between treatments.
“This is a vital service for Derry people, especially when you consider it’s 75 miles one way to get to the hospital.”
Mr McCrossan said a series of events set up in memory of Caolán over the past year have been inspirational.
He said: “I want to take this opportunity to thank all the families, friends, businesses, pupils, teachers and everyone from St Columb’s College, and all who helped raise money within the last year and who continue to support children’s cancer charities such as CLIC Sargent.”
Their efforts, he said, have resulted in a number of positive developments to help other children with cancer and their families.
This included Caolán’s classmates organising the Caolán McCrossan Memorial 5k Run on Caolán’s birthday, June 4, last year. The event proved to be a phenomenal success, with more than 1,000 runners raising more than £18,000 for CLIC Sargent.
Like his brother, Caolán also played for Doire CholmCille GAC, and the club has raised more than £2,000 from a series of fundraising events.
In a further development, Caolán’s classmates and the Art Department at St Columb’s College last week handed over more than £800 from selling Christmas cards designed by the students themselves and from a bake sale.
“The response is so typical of the generosity of the people of Derry,” Mr McCrossan said.
“When they know a person or a family, they always step up to the mark. They come to the call straight away.”
Mr McCrossan said that, on top of this, the family also wanted to acknowledge the “high level of nursing care given to Caolán by the staff of Altnagelvin Hospital and Belfast Royal Children’s Hospital”.
There were 17 families from County Derry who availed of CLIC Sargent’s Paul’s House over 27 stays during the year to March 2015. This was by far the largest number of families from any of the six counties in the North.
Speaking about CLIC Sargent’s new Amy’s House, Cecilia Milburn, UK Home from Home manager, said: “The opening of Amy’s House marked the culmination of a £3.7 million fundraising campaign and CLIC Sargent is hugely grateful for the generosity and commitment displayed by our fundraisers and donors.
“We wanted the stories and names of our supporters to inspire every aspect of the Home from Home and Caolán’s story was one of many which is paid tribute to by the new home, which will provide support to hundreds of families in the future.”
CLIC Sargent is urging people this Leap Year to ‘Make It Count’ by doing something positive to raise funds for CLIC Sargent on February 29, such as organise a tea morning or get creative and come up with something novel.
For more information, check out: www.clicsargent.org.uk/content/leap-day-make-it-count.
Caolán McCrossan’s first anniversary Mass will take place at 7pm on Friday, February 19, at St Oliver Plunkett’s Church, Strathfoyle, Derry.