Aoibheann, who died aged 8 is the inspiration for Aoibheann's Pink Tie, this year's charity partner for Network Ireland Kildare Gala Luncheon on November 22
Network Ireland Kildare Branch will host their annual charity lunch at Killashee on Friday, November 22. This year's chosen charity is Aoibheann’s Pink Tie, an organisation that helps and offers practical support to families of children diagnosed with cancer, families who mainly attend St John’s Oncology Ward at Our Lady’s Childrens Hospital, Crumlin.
Emma Murphy, President Network Ireland Kildare, stated: “A cancer diagnosis for a young child is every parent's worse nightmare, any parent would gladly undergo surgery and treatment in place of their child. As the Kildare branch member who nominated APT, I am absolutely thrilled that they were chosen as our charity partner this year. It was our second year to pitch, so I'm we came back again this year. The work that Mick, Jimmy, Linda and all the team do is just amazing, and means so much to families whose lives literally change overnight with a diagnosis.”
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Network Kildare charity event with last year's designated charity, Tiglin, recieving €33,000, the highest amount ever raised.
Aoibheann’s Pink Tie National Children’s Cancer Charity was set up by Mick Rochford and Jimmy Norman after the tragic loss of Jimmy’s daughter, Aoibheann, to cancer, aged just 8 years old.
“On January 21, 2009, our beautiful daughter Aoibheann was diagnosed with cancer” said Jimmy. “She was seven years old at the time, and as far as we were concerned, she was a beautiful, healthy child. Annmarie, Aoibheann’s mother, was the first to notice that something was not quite right, Aoibheann was displaying behavioural changes and experiencing fatigue, with a notably pale complexion” he said.
“I never thought that anything was wrong; I just thought it was growing pains. When the doctor told us it was cancer and was at stage four, a piece of Annmarie and I died in that moment. I spent most of the time in hospital with Aoibheann as we also had twin girls at home (whom I found impossible to look after), so we decided that I would stay in hospital with Aoibheann (though she might have far preferred her mother).”
After surgery removed a two and a half kilo tumour from Aoibheann, Jimmy learnt the company he worked for was closing down, SR Technics Aircraft Maintenance at Dublin Airport.
“I actually didn’t care – all we only cared about was saving Aoibheann. In all of this time, I observed so much hardship on the ward, both the emotional pain and economic devastation to families was something I could not comprehend. We were lucky with family and friends around us; my friends at Dublin Airport were incredible and our families rallied around us. My great friend Mick Rochford stood beside me, through thick and thin.
“This was where the seed grew to start a practical organisation to help families of children fighting cancer. Today, Aoibheann's Pink Tie will give financial support to any family on Saint John’s Ward. The support ranges in amount and is guided by our conversations with the family and consultation with the social workers on the ward. We will help 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
“We will pay for accommodation, get a car repaired or help with purchasing heating oil or paying utility bills. Sometimes, we help with rents, mortgages and school fees. We will do whatever it takes to help a family and our help will never have a 'no' sign on the door. We try to ease the pain any way, to listen, to help with practicalities in any way”.
Jimmy added parents who have been through cancer treatment for a child know other parents are experiencing.
APT have brought specialised ideas for the children including the Hickman dry suit which allows a child with cancer to swim (as they cannot due to a special line in their chest). We give all the girls pink dresses and the lads army uniforms; we decorate the children’s rooms with our very own 'picnominate' where the children design the murals for their bedroom walls and then pick the next child to have this gift”.
Jimmy continued: “We brought Chemo Duck to Ireland also, an idea to help the children understand their treatment, and our pillow 'Dream with Aoibheann' that has a speaker in it and allows music or even phone conversation to be heard through it”.
Families are sent on respite breaks and the charity has a birthday list, with birthday presents sent to the child in hospital and when possible, also to siblings.
If a parent has to go suddenly to the hospital, APT will provide an emergency pack which contains deodorant, shampoo, a towel, sanitary products, tooth paste brushes, tea bags, coffee, etc.
“We hold two huge parties a year, our heroes and princesses summer party and our Christmas party. Anyone who has witnessed these parties will tell you how special they are.
Acknowledging everyone who has helped or supported the charity to date, he also praised the committee of Aoibheann’s Pink Tie and Network Ireland Kildare for choosing the charity this year.
“I must finally remember one special person, our darling Aoibheann who has brought light into a very dark place. She is the light that never goes out”.
Limited tickets available on Eventbrite or through Network Ireland Kildare Branch.
“We would be very grateful for donations for raffle prizes and sponsorship to help us raise as much money as possible for this amazing charity” said Tara Lane, PRO. This event is run in association with Local Enterprise Office Kildare and supported by AIB and media partners Kildare Post/Kildare Now. For further information, please contact: Tara Lane at 087 978 9318.