Christmas joy for Derry tot who keeps smiling

Two year old Rio Harper joined mum Jacqueline and dad Ricky for some festive fun at Northern Ireland Cancer Fund for Children's Christmas Party at The Culloden, Holywood.
Two year old Rio Harper joined mum Jacqueline and dad Ricky for some festive fun at Northern Ireland Cancer Fund for Children's Christmas Party at The Culloden, Holywood.

A Derry toddler who has been battling cancer since April has been given an extra special start to his Christmas celebrations with a visit to the Northern Ireland Cancer Fund for Children’s annual Christmas party.

Rio Adair, who turned two in September, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia in April of this year. His mother Jacqueline explained: “Rio was well in himself but developed a rash, which looked a bit like a meningitis rash so we took him to the out of hours doctors.”

The family were devastated when Rio was diagnosed with Leukaemia and that they would be facing intense treatment to help him fight the disease.

However Jacqueline said that even when undergoing a tough course of chemotherapy, Rio remained cheerful and upbeat. “He never slowed down. He didn’t feel sorry for himself, he’s just a happy wee boy who got on with things.”

However because of his reduced immunity Rio was not able to mix with other children or get out of the house - this, Jacqueline said took a toll on her bubbly baby boy. But thanks for the Northern Ireland Cancer Fund for Children, the family were able to access some much needed support through support worker Alexis.

“Alexis comes to see us every Thursday, her visits are the highlight of our week. Rio is currently in treatment and it can be a very lonely time.

“Alexis’s visits are something to look forward to; she is another face coming into the house. Rio really enjoys the special one-one time they spend together, as they do lots of fun activities such as painting and baking. I appreciated the couple of hours to get on with everyday tasks such as doing the grocery shopping or cleaning the house.”

Jacqueline, from Lincoln Courts, describes the support offered to her by the NICFC as a “lifeline” during a difficult time and the Christmas party was a particular highlight.

In keeping with tradition the children at the Christmas party were greeted by an array of special guests including the infamous May McFettridge and the cast from this year’s Grand Opera House pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk, Santa Claus, a magician, balloon makers and a DJ playing Christmas tunes.

Rio is responding well to treatment - but faces a further two years of chemotherapy - but Jacqueline said he remains happy and energetic and the future looks bright.