As hordes of young bodies buzzed around the grounds of Glendeer Pet Farm, near Athlone onet Monday morning recently, going from playgrounds to puppies and from lambs to llamas, the scene was everything that childhood should be.
However for four children in the Midlands who were diagnosed with cancer, life was very different. Hospital rooms and chemotherapy became a way of life, and they became all too well acquainted with St Therese’s Ward, the paediatric unit at Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe.
That experience prompted the four mothers of those children to set up a fundraising initiative called ‘Funds for St Therese’s Children’s Ward’ and in the space of just a few weeks, their efforts yielded just over €29,000, money which will be spent on completely revamping the ward over the coming months.
Planned projects include a complete repainting of the ward, renovation of the two isolation units, a full overhaul of the play room for children and more, all in addition to the recent installation of a Fairy Garden at the front of the hospital.
“We’ve been truly overwhelmed by the generosity of absolutely everyone that we’ve contacted, we started out with a target of €10,000 for painting work and it’s clear now that we’ll be able to do so much more,” said Marian Dolan, a native of Glasson who now lives in Roscommon town, and the mother of Evan, who lost his battle with cancer a year ago this month.
Lisa Kelly of Birr, Sarah Sweeney-Harney of Drum in Roscommon, and Priscilla Egan of Dysart, Roscommon, are the others who took on the mantle of improving the experience of visiting St Therese’s ward for every young patient and their family. Sarah, whose daughter Alora is the only one of the four children who is alive and fighting cancer today, spoke to over 100 people who attended about how much this means to everyone involved.
“Two years ago we started on a journey that would see us visit Crumlin Hospital and St Therese’s Ward on a regular basis, and while the staff are just wonderful, it was clear that there was an opportunity for so much to be done with the ward, and we’re incredibly grateful for the support we received” she said on Monday.
Alora was one of over 50 children who came along to be part of Monday’s celebrations at Glendeer, where there was a party to mark the fundraising draw that the four group members have been working on over the past couple of months.
Polly Hanley was the big winner on the day as she collected the top prize of a new PVC Door worth €850, sponsored by Windoc Windows and Doors, while almost 60 other prizewinners were drawn out.
However while the main raffle fundraiser has been completed and work is now expected to start very soon in order to ensure completion in advance of the busy winter season, those who wish to contribute can still do so by visiting ifundraise.ie and searching for “St Therese’s Children’s Ward”, while it was also announced at the draw that there will be an online auction taking place very soon for other items such as a Galway jersey signed by the members of the 2017 hurling panel, a Star Wars Rogue One poster signed by director Gareth Edwards, and a flag from the 2017 US Open, signed and framed by Irish golfer Shane Lowry. Details of this will soon be available at https://www.facebook.com/fundsforstthereseschildrensward/.
Priscilla, whose son Conor died of a brain tumour this April aged just a year and two months, told of how the isolation rooms can end up serving as a family home for some cancer patients.
“When Conor was receiving chemotherapy, that took place in Crumlin. However when you are undergoing cancer treatment of any kind, you’re extremely prone to all sorts of infections and parents have to be extremely vigilant, so we spent a lot of time in St Therese’s Ward,” she said.
“Conor never let anything get him down, he was always happy as could be in the company of people, but the rooms are worn, the play area is not really suitable and the whole place didn’t exactly match his mood! The mattresses for parents to sleep on are extremely basic and you effectively have to live in that room for days.”
“Hopefully, the work that we plan to get done in the next while will help Alora in her ongoing battle, while it will also be a fitting tribute to three incredibly brave boys – Evan, Tommy (Kelly Shaw), and Conor”.