Tribute to ‘brave’ Niall as Dungiven schools mark Hospice appeal

St Canice PS principal Ciaran Loane, Paula McCloskey from St Canice Nursery Unit, St Canice pupils Eoghan McCloskey, Bronagh, Aoife and Sinead Lavery and St. Patrick's College teacher, Conor Lavery. Also pictured is the late Niall Craig-Kealey, a former St. Canice PS pupil. 'INLV1315-034KDR
St Canice PS principal Ciaran Loane, Paula McCloskey from St Canice Nursery Unit, St Canice pupils Eoghan McCloskey, Bronagh, Aoife and Sinead Lavery and St. Patrick's College teacher, Conor Lavery. Also pictured is the late Niall Craig-Kealey, a former St. Canice PS pupil. 'INLV1315-034KDR

Two neighbouring schools in Dungiven will next week mark their fundraising efforts for charity and, at the same time, celebrate the life of one of a former pupils.

St. Patrick’s College and St. Canice PS are fundraising for the NI Children’s Hospice.

Both schools have organised several events, from designing and creating Christmas decorations for sale to a sponsored walk. Funds raised go towards the Hospice’s ‘heroes’ appeal.

One man who knows the value of the Hospice is St. Patrick’s teacher, Conor Lavery. His daughter, Bronagh had open heart surgery in 2013. Almost two years on and Bronagh is thriving. She attends St. Canice nursery, and Conor says he and wife Toni are extremely thankful for the Hospice.

“It’s a cause very close to our hearts,” said Conor. “We have benefited from the NI Children’s Hospice since Bronagh came home. We receive two long weekend stays a year at their facility in Glengormley, including supervised swimming for Bronagh. “Bronagh wasn’t in a public swimming pool until she was three because she was very prone to infection, so it was wonderful to have the use of the Hospice’s facility,” explained Conor. “It’s really like a big house and we have met fantastic people. It’s fantastic for us as a family. You couldn’t put a price on it.”

St. Canice PS Principal, Ciaran Loane, said the school is looking forward to the Benbradagh sponsored walk on 30th March.

The April 1 event to mark both schools’ fundraising efforts will also see the release of 330 blue balloons to celebrate the life of Niall Craig-Kealey from Dungiven, whose first anniversary is on April 3.

Niall’s mum, Caroline said she is incredibly touched by the school’s tribute, and added: “It’s lovely they are taking time out to remember Niall in this way.”

Paula McCloskey from St. Canice Nursery Unit described Niall, who was five when he passed away after battling a cancerous tumour, as “the most inspirational and brave wee man I have ever known”.

“The determination that Niall faced his huge battle with was a credit to him and his parents, Caroline and Damien.

“Niall’s passing has left a huge gap in the lives of all those who had the pleasure of meeting and spending time with him,” said Paula. “As Mr Loane said, the balloon realease on April 1st will be a celebration of Niall’s life and especially of the time he spent with us in the Nursery Unit. I’m sure I speak for Frances Delargy, nursery teacher, and myself, and my own family. especially Eoghan, when I say Niall may have been a small boy but he left a great big footprint on all our hearts and we will never forget the wee boy who taught us all how to be a real life super hero.”