MOST little girls want to be princessess and for two Banbridge children that dream came true when they were chosen as belles of the ball at a recent launch event for a new charity setting up in the area.
Darcy Coyle from Loughbrickland and Aimee Clydesdale from Banbridge joined three other children with life-limiting illnessess to become princes and princesses at a gala ball held in the Seagoe Hotel, Portadown.
The event marked the launch of the new Banbridge/Craigavon branch of ‘Friends of Children’ charity which has been running successfully in the Newry area for the past 13 years.
Founded by Denis Mulgrew, ‘Friends of Children’ has helped countless young people over the years, with the main aim of sending them on fun-filled, morale-boosting trips to Euro-Disney in Paris.
Now, thanks to the recent fund-raising ball, the ‘Disney fund’ has been given a major boost, with an auction on the night raising an impressive £8,600 towards travel and accommodation costs.
“We have been so humbled by people’s generosity,” said Denis, “as these Disney trips are a really magical experience for sick children. We are hoping to bring around 40 children to Euro-Disney next year and we need to raise around £30,000, so this gala ball has been a terrific start.”
A total of six children were selected from Donard School in Banbridge and Ceara School in Lurgan. They included Darcy and Aimee from the Banbridge district; Kaitlin Toppley from Tandragee; Declan O’Hare from Leitrim; and Lucy Mitchell from Lurgan. Jamie Taaffe, also from Lurgan, was unable to attend.
“The children travelled in style to the hotel and were collected in limousines and given a police escort to the event which was exciting, not only for the children, but for their family members who travelled with them,” added Denis. “It was a really special night for everyone and well worth all the hard work that went into its preparation.”
Guests were entertained by Banbridge-born comedian Gene Fitzpatrick and the compere for the evening was well known manager of the Europa Hotel in Belfast, James McGinn, who also starred in the BBC series ‘Lobby Lives’.
Speaking after the event, local mum Janet Coyle praised the efforts of everyone involved, particularly Denis as honorary president; Brian Scullion, honorary president; Anne Marie O’Hanlon, joint co-ordinator; and Banbridge community constable, Warren Todd, who helped organise the police escort.
Janet’s youngest daughter Darcy, now aged 10, was born with the condition neonatal adrenalleukodystrophy - a rare neurodegenerative disorder which affects mobility, intellectual capacity, digestion and communication skills and also causes impaired vision and hearing.
“Darcy has many problems and is totally dependent on us for everything, but as a princess for the ‘Friends of Children’ gala ball, she was good as gold and enjoyed all the attention,” said Janet. “Darcy doesn’t usually travel that well, but even the journey wasn’t a problem in the limousine.
“It was a wonderful occasion and it’s great that a charity like this has started on our own doorstep. As well as the obvious benefits for the children, it is also a boost for parents and it helps to meet other families living with similar difficulties.
“Most little girls want to be a princess and it was brillaint that Darcy had this opportunity. Unlike most other children, she probably won’t have that chance again.”