Man United's Sir Alex Ferguson supports Derry couple's 'Malaria Santa' campaign

The manager of Manchester United Football Club, Sir Alex Ferguson, has sent his best wishes to Martin and Mary Gallagher in their campaign to raise thousands of pounds to buy malaria nets for Tanzania.

Since Saturday morning, the Derry couple, who lost their son Christopher to malaria four years ago, have been standing on the steps of the Guildhall dressed as Santa and Mrs Claus collecting money.

Despite the biting cold they've returned every day and will continue until Christmas eve.

Last night, Sir Alex Ferguson sent his support to the couple.

He said: "I would like to wish Martin and Mary Gallagher and their Children in Crossfire Malaria Santa Campaign, every success this week. I know their late son Christopher was a great fan of Manchester United.

"I am sure he would be very proud of what they are doing and I personally would like to add my voice to everyone else and wish them good luck this week.

"Malaria is a terrible disease and it is important that people like Martin and Mary and Children in Crossfire get as much support as possible. Well done on this initiative."

Martin and Mary decided to make Christmas very special for thousands of children in Tanzania by becoming the Malaria Santa.

They lost their son, Christy, 23, when he contracted two deadly strains of malaria four years ago while backpacking in Thailand.

Christy tragically died only two weeks before he was due to return home to his family and friends.

After Christy's death, with the help of Derry based charity, Children in Crossfire, the couple set up The Malaria Fund, which raises funds for medication and malaria nets for those in deprived countries stricken by the disease.

"We can't do anything for Christy; we can't help him now but we hope that by doing this we will be able to help others in his name," said his mum Mary.

"I know it might mean nothing to people here but we went through it; we know how hard it is to lose someone and there are children in Africa dying of this every day."

The week long vigil is a huge challenge for the couple, but they feel it is a small price to pay knowing That the funds donated to them will save so many children's lives.

"We just hope that, when people are out getting their Christmas shopping, they'll give a wee bit of thought to these children and please help us fight malaria which kills more people in the world than any other disease," she said.

Meanwhile, local pub the Crescent Bar is supporting Children in Crossfire this Christmas season via their Advent Appeal. The well known bar will be raising money through a fantastic promotion.

Stephen Long, of the Crescent Bar, said "After reading the literature on the Advent Appeal, the management and patrons agreed that, instead of running our 2.50 per pint promotion during the week, we would sell pints at the usual 2.70 price for the month of December and donate the 20p to the appeal. We have always had great support from our customers for any fundraising venture and are particularly pleased to be able to help Children in Crossfire's efforts this Christmas.

Sarah Gallagher, Fundraiser for Children in Crossfire, said they were thrilled by the bar's support.