THE ‘Long March’ from Belfast to Ballymena which bandsmen took part in to raise funds for local youngster Jake Oliver drummed up fantastic support.
And last week, Andrew Larmour of the Gertrude Star Flute Band returned to Ballymena to hand over a massive cheque for £5,651 to Jake and his mum Karen who live in Ballykeel.
Back in September, Andrew and fellow Star members were joined by members of Ballymena-based flute bands on the long, footsore trek.
And while they may well be used to stepping out on parade the local bandsmen can justifiably claim to have gone the extra mile on their mega march for a cause close to their hearts.
Five-year-old Jake was diagnosed with lymphoblastic lymphoma in September 2020.
Lymphoblastic lymphoma is a very rare cancer that affects the blood cells and the immune system of the patient and mainly affects children between the ages of 1 and 7.
When Jake woke with a wheezy chest, his mum Karen contacted the GP straight away.
Jake was prescribed anti-biotics and his mum was advised to use a humidifier and also a steamy bathroom.
There was no improvement in Jake’s condition and the family spent 8 weeks going back and forth trying to find out just why their little boy was so ill.
Eventually a visit to A&E and blood tests led to Jake being referred to the RVH Children’s Hospital where they received the devastating diagnosis.
“It has been a really difficult time for Jake,” said Karen “as he missed all of his P1 year, with the exception of a few days.
“We are all very grateful for the fantastic suppport we’ve received from these bandsmen.”
Among the marchers in September was local councillor, Rodney Quigley who said that the joint effort by the band members was to be praised.
“I couldn’t make the entire walk because of prior engagements but I was proud to be there at the 6.30am start in East Belfast with my local band colleagues.
“Jake has relations in the ranks of Gertude Star Flute Band and it was their idea to do the walk to Ballymena.
“I know their fund raising page has received a lot of donations from local bands and its great to see such unity on the marching band front,” he said.
One of the walk’s organisers, Gertrude Star’s Andrew Larmour said the walk to Ballymena was one of the proudest days of his life.
“Walking with my Gertrude brothers and making three new friends for life in GeorgeBarr , Lyle Murray and Rodney Quigley was an honour.
“It is great to know that we have helped Jake and his mum Karen Oliver through this event.”
Karen and Jake were there to welcome the intrepid walkers to Ballymena and she said she was overwhelmed by the generosity shown.
She said: “Tonight Jake,Emelia and I met up with everyone walking at Queen Street and finished the walk with them!
“We cannot thank you all enough! Jake was a little out of sorts due to increasing his Saturday chemotherapy dosage but he just stayed in my arms and took it all in this evening.
“ I wish I could thank absolutely every one in person for joining the walk and giving donations you have all blown us away by your generosity.”
Last week. Andrew posted: “Went down to Ballymena to hand over what was raised on our sponsored walk a few weeks ago.
“Can now say after counting final total tonight cheque and cash £5651 was raised in aid of wee Jake Oliver.
“Again I'd like thank everyone that donated to the sponsored walk also the ones that took part on the walk and Gertrude Star , Pride of the Maine and Ballykeel LSOU bands.
“Your generosity didn't go unnoticed thank you.”