A brave primary school pupil has cut off her hair for charity and raised £850 to send three families affected by the illness of a child to Blackpool.
Addison Long, aged 9, has been made a young ambassador for Paul’s Campaign, the sarcoma awareness charity set up in memory of Paul Coyle, who was just 26 when he died from the illness in 2011.
Paul’s father, Francie, said the fact that the Lisnagelvin Primary School pupil was aware of sarcoma showed that the public were gradually becoming more knowledgeable about the lethal bone and soft tissue cancer.
“After she cut off her hair and presented us with the cheque we said to Addison, ‘Look, we want to make you a young ambassador’ for Paul’s Campaign. The money you’ve raised is going to send three families over to Blackpool.’
“She was asking us if she was really sending three families over and I had to explain that, ‘Yes, that’s what you have done. That’s the difference you can make’. She’s only nine-years-old and she is talking about Paul’s Campaign. It shows you that the story is getting through.”
Addison’s £850 donation will now be used to send the families, who have been affected by child illness, to the ‘Donna’s Dream House’ resort in Blackpool that was set up following the death of Donna Curtis who died of a brain tumour on New Year’s Day in 1996, aged just 20.
Donna’s dying wish had been for a ‘Disneyworld’ for sick children to be set up in her home town of Blackpool.
Paul’s Campaign now works with the Donna’s Dream House Charity to send local families to Lancashire for respite holidays each year.
Francie said this work would not be possible without the generous donations of the general public and thanked staff at Seagate who also recently raised £500 for the charity which will be used to send two more families over.
It’s a busy time of year for the charity, which will be painting Free Derry Corner yellow for sarcoma awareness in a few weeks time ahead of its annual walk on July 27.
There are also ‘Full Monty’ and ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ events in the planning.
Francie explains that the charity has expanded its reach by taking its awareness campaign to the Pobalscoil Ghaoth Dobhair in the Donegal Gaeltacht.
Back in March Francie helped deliver its first ever bilingual PowerPoint presentation at the secondary school in Derrybeg and received a great response from the pupils.
“We’ve branched out into the Donegal Gaeltacht and what we would like to do now is get down to Leinster House to do a presentation for the T.D.s down there. Michael Noonan [former Fine Gael Finance Minister and current T.D. for Limerick], one of the politicians, has had sarcoma. So I’ve been talking to Pearse Doherty [Sinn Féin T.D. for Donegal] about that,” said Francie.
Public awareness of sarcoma has certainly exploded thanks to Francie’s tireless campaign since the tragic loss of Paul eight years ago.
Francie’s primary motivation continues to be to try to drive up early detection rates and to prevent other sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, dying from the illness.
Three years ago Francie and his fellow campaigners successfully lobbied the British Medical Association (BMA) to put in place a protocol for GPs to follow when they are diagnosing sarcoma.
The protocol ensures abnormal bumps, lumps, cysts or swellings on bone or soft tissue are now referred for ultrasound scans if there are continuing doubts about what’s causing them two weeks after they have been reported. Francie said he was pleasantly surprised when a friend and senior health professional told him the protocol had saved many lives.
“They put in the two protocols, that if you have a lump, bump, cyst or swelling, they’ll bring you back within two weeks and if it’s still not right they will send you for an ultrasound. When you do the ultrasound it will show the mass, because an ordinary blood test, if it’s advanced it will show the mass, but if it’s not advanced it won’t.
“She said to me: ‘I have to tell you this. What Paul’s Campaign did in 2016 has saved so many lives.’ That’s the first time I had a sort of realisation and I’m still in shock about it. It’s there for a reason, to help us, to help the GPs, but I didn’t realise how much an impact it had had until she hit me with the sentences. It was so sweet to hear it.”
To get involved with Paul’s Campaign visit the charity’s website at http://www.paulscampaign.com