The dad of a four-year-old Dungiven boy battling a cancerous tumour has described the support for his brave little boy as “unbelievable” after the town rallied at the weekend, raising thousands of pounds for him.
Niall Craig was diagnosed with the tumour just seven weeks ago. The news was devastating for the family, but Niall began his time in the Royal Victoria Hospital for Sick Children quickly and, since then, the family has been flooded with messages of goodwill.
Niall’s dad, Damien Kealey, says his little boy finished his second burst of chemothaerapy yesterday, and was excited to see pictures of so many people turning out for the charity walk in his honour on Sunday. The three-mile walk for Niall, who attends St. Canice Nursery, Dungiven, was supported by people locally and further afield and raised £5,510.
Although Damien and Niall’s mum Caroline Craig were at their son’s bedside in Belfast during the walk, they were sent dozens of pictures to show them just how much support the family has.
“Niall was looking at all his wee nursery friends and pointing out who was who to us. He was really excited,” said Damien. “It’s just amazing to see that amount of support. It’s unbelievable, and there will never be the right words to say how grateful we are. It was emotional when we looked at the pictures and all the crowds. People are amazing and it means a lot to us.”
Damien said both he and Niall had their heads shaved last week.
“Niall’s hair had started to fall out so I said to him, ‘we better get this hair shaved off’ and he said, ‘shave it off!’. I got mine shaved first and then they shaved Niall’s in the hospital on Thursday,” said Damien. “Niall understands he is sick because there is so much going on, but he’s doing well and we hope to get down home for a couple of days this week.”
Niall’s aunt Carmel O’Kane spoke movingly to the hundreds of people who gathered for the walk. On behalf of her brother Damien and Caroline, and their families, Carmel thanked everyone for their “hard work, generosity, thoughts and prayers”.
“Everybody is so good, and Niall is getting exceptional care and will continue to do so,” said Carmel. “Damien felt guilty they couldn’t be here for the walk but I told them everyone knows they are thinking of them. People turned out big time; they always do. Such support is important for Damien and Caroline, and I hope everyone keeps Niall in their prayers.”
Carmel made special mention of Sean McGlinchey, Tricia Harkin and Francie McNicholl from Dungiven for their help on Sunday and since Niall was diagnosed. The money will go towards accommodation and travel costs for Caroline and Damien during Niall’s stay in hospital.
“The community spirit in Dungiven is amazing,” said Tricia. “As a family we saw that ourselves when my nephew Ryan O’Connor was ill. Dungiven people are brilliant and are always there when you need them.”
Sean McGlinchey said donations from some well-wishers left him speechless.
“There was one man who gave a £100 note to the street collection and then there was another fellow who lives in the town who would be vulnerable but, when he saw what was going on, he said, ‘I know that wee fella’, and gave us £20. That shows the strength of feeling among the community in the town and, hopefully, that will be of great support to wee Niall and his family,” said Sean.
(See pages 12 & 13 for photos)