A support group aimed at helping families of children living with cancer has been launched in Derry.
As a result of her son Jamie’s illness, Derry mother, Patricia Harkin developed a close relationship with a woman from Belfast called Gaye Kerr whose twin children, Helen and Brian, died as a result of the same cancer-related genetic disorder.
Gaye Kerr founded the group ‘Angel Wishes’ and with the help of Patricia ‘Angel Wishes’ was officially launched in the Gasyard Centre on Easter Monday.
“It was a fabulous day,” said Patricia. “It couldn’t have gone any better.”
The ‘Angel Wishes’ launch was used as an opportunity to treat both children with cancer and their families to gifts and complementary therapies but the main focus of the event was to provide families affected by cancer with the help and support they need.
“The one thing my husband Damien and I found difficult when Jamie was diagnosed with cancer was just how hard it was to find all of the information and support needed to cope,” said Patricia.
Patricia added: “One of the mothers who attended the event last week said for the first time since her child’s cancer diagnosis she no longer felt isolated.”
Every single child at the event received a gift and the top prize of a brand new bicycle went to a little girl who had only recently completed her first bout of cancer treatment.
“I can’t thank all of the staff at the Gasyard Centre and the volunteers enough because without them we wouldn’t have been able to host the event. I’d also like to thank our sponsors The City Hotel and the Brunswick Moviebowl - their support has been invaluable.”
Next up for Patricia is a fundraiser at Donegal Airsoft in Newtowncunningham next month.
“Drew Houston has been a big support to our cause and on Sunday May 24 he is celebrating the fifth birthday of his business.
“My son Jamie loves going to Donegal Airsoft and Drew has kindly agreed to donate money raised during the day to our cause.”
Patricia went on to say that whilst the help and support available to parents is no where near the level she thinks it should be, she believes ‘Angel Wishes’ is starting to make a difference.
“The one thing families crave when their child is diagnosed with cancer is information and support.
“Our experience and the experience of many other families is that the help and support out there just isn’t adequate.
“Even though we’ve only had one ‘Angel Wishes’ day here in Derry I honestly believe that it has had an impact.
“All you had to do was look at the faces of the children who were at the launch last week. Many of the mothers who came were able to avail of the complementary therapies and even the smallest thing like a massage can make the world of difference to someone whose child has cancer.”
If you would like to contact ‘Angel Wishes’ visit its Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/AngelWishesni.co.uk