Ballymena Support Group raises over £108,000 for Hospice

Shaun Oneill


Shaun Oneill


CHIEF Executive of Northern Ireland Hospice, Mrs. Heather Weir, has praised the fund raising exploits of the Ballymena Support Group after they handed over a cheque for £108,058.11.

At the Support Group’s Zoom Annual General Meeting Mrs K Cooke, Hon Treasurer, revealed the amount raised during the past year

Mrs Weir, CE, thanked the members and the amazing supporters in the Ballymena area for, in a year like no other, continuing with, determination, innovation and dedication to raise an outstanding amount to help sustain the services provided by N I Hospice.

Mrs Weir detailed the journey through the pandemic for N I Hospice and the road to recovery.

Demand for services had increased over the year.

Within the Northern Health and Social Care Trust locality the Adult Hospice dealt with 194 new patient referrals (increase of 7%), 657 local people were supported to live well and die well at home (increase of 25%).

The Adult In-Patient Unit cared for 125 people (increase of 18%).

In respect of the Children’s Hospice 272 referrals were received (56 resided in NHSCT locality), 5 ante-natal mothers were referred (1 from NHSCT) following outcome from 20 week scan for support and 59 bereaved families (15 from NHSCT area) received a service, significant work with a whole family network impacted by the death of a child.

During the year NI Hospice secured an additional £8.3m from Government Covid Funding in lieu of income lost but the challenge continues to progress to 50/50 funding.

Fundraising had to be rethought with increased digital giving increasing.

Difficult decisions had to be made to reduce costs with expenditure focused on care services.

Farewell and a special thank you

Mrs Weir said farewell to and thanked two members of the Support Group who are retiring.

Samina Bonar has been a member of the Group for over 34 years.

The CE acknowledged Samina’s vision and dedication to the work of N I Hospice, specifically the establishment of the Annual Hospice Christmas Fair which continues to go from strength to strength.

As one of the innovators of Jingle all the Way in Ballymena Samina and her husband Roy opened their home to host Jingle Team Meetings. Her expertise and talents will be missed by the Support Group.

Meanwhile, Jean Boyce has been a member of the Group since 1986 and served a term as Treasurer.

A tireless worker for the Hospice, supported by husband Eric, her quiet, knowledgeable support will be missed.

Mrs Weir also acknowledged the contribution of Gerry McCann, retiring Chair, over the past six years.

Gerry is highly respected by the Members for his efficient and friendly leadership. Members are delighted that Gerry intends to retain his membership of the Group.

On behalf of all at NI Hospice Mrs Weir congratulated Muriel Barr on being awarded the B.E.M. in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Mrs. Weir noted with deep gratitude Muriel’s dedication and hard work for N I Hospice.

Acting Chair Mrs Toni Bailes thanked Mrs Weir and Mrs McCall, Director of Commercial and Brand Development, for their attendance at the AGM and the continued support of staff at NI Hospice over a very difficult and challenging time for them.

Toni particularly thanked Catherine O’Hara, Partnership Programme Manager, for all her encouragement and support.

Toni welcomed Charlene McNeilly and Hilary Moody, who with staff at the Payroll Department, Education Authority have been supporting the work of NI Children’s Hospice since 2017 and continued throughout the past difficult year.

Mrs Bailes highlighted the difficulties of fund raising during lockdown but the Group had found innovative ways to have another very successful year.

“The Ballymena NIH Support Group have always been blessed by a generous and supportive community. Supporters including Ballymena Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Ballymena Rotary Club, Ballymena Road Club, Ballymena Academy, Blair Transport, Lisa Powell in memory of Ruby Powell, W J 0’Donnell & Sons, Funeral Directors to name but a few have found virtual ways of raising funds,” said Mrs. Bailes.

Christmas Fair at Tullyglass

The Annual Christmas Fair held in Tullyglass Hotel is always a highlight of their year’s fundraising.

Group Member Elaine McBride devised an online Virtual Christmas Fair which was very successful and many of our faithful stall holders were able to avail of this opportunity.

Elaine has expanded this idea and is currently holding a Spring Fling on social media to assist small businesses and raise funds for NI Hospice.

Again innovation was the order of the day and their Members Marie Reynolds and Mary Selwood, together with husbands Stephen and Chris, organised The Big Night In Virtual Concert on December 4.

The final total raised was an amazing £31,365.06. Toni thanked the Galgorm Spa and Resort, the main sponsor, together with all the other sponsors and those who donated on the night.

Special thanks to good friend and supporter of NI Hospice Jackie Fullerton, MBE, who together with Clare McCollum gave their services free of charge to present the event.

Guardian duo thanked

Mrs Bailes thanked the Ballymena Guardian, “particularly Shaun O’Neill, and photographer Darren Crawford who have been so instrumental in keeping the work of NI Hospice in the public eye.”

Although the Group could not hold the normal street collections the ‘Boxes in Shops’ fundraiser has continued to be a very successful income source and Mrs Bailes thanked the many businesses who participate and the generous public who support the NI Hospice so faithfully.

There have been changes within the Group this year. Chair Gerry McCann has suffered ill health this year and has resigned his post.

He will retain his membership of the Group and Mrs Bailes thanked him for his dedicated service as Chair for the past six years.

Members Samina Bonar and Jean Boyce have retired after over 70 years combined dedication to the work of N I Hospice and we will miss them.

The Group have this year mourned the passing of dear friends and Members of the Group, Maureen Hunter and Pat Cole. Funds were raised in their memory by friends and family.

Mrs Bailes acknowledged the support of Members during a difficult year and especially thanked Kate Cooke, Treasurer and Secretary Muriel Barr for all their hard work.

She warmly congratulated Muriel on being awarded the BEM. in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Mrs Bailes concluded that it is hoped that their fundraising will start to get back to normal this year and wishes all their supporters well for 2021.

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