Anchor Boys have Christmas goodwill in the bag!

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The members and officers of Edenderry Presbyterian Anchor Boys have chosen a deserving local charity for their ‘Christmas Special’ – and they have gone about it with enthusiasm and seasonal goodwill.

It’s the ‘Jake’s Ladybird Bag’ charity, in memory of Jake Flaherty, the brave little Portadown boy who had Downs Syndrome, complicated by a serious heart condition and breathing difficulties. Jake died in May 2013 at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children – just two days after his second birthday when it seemed he was recovering from his latest operation.

The Kernan child – son of Shane and Julie Flaherty – spent more than half of his young life in hospital, mainly at The Royal. But surgery services there have been stopped, and diverted to Dublin, London and Birmingham. The all-Ireland facility in Dublin is still being set up, and most go to the GB centres.

And therein lies the problem. For parents are having to leave home when their children require emergency surgery and they have to be rushed to one of the three centres. Courtesy of the Children’s Heartbeat Trust (CHT), Julie organises ‘Jake’s Bags’. They contain ‘First Aid Kits’, emergencies supplies so that children and parents can get moving immediately.

Said Julie Flaherty, “Jake’s Ladybird Bags contain essential toiletries, provisions – like teabags, coffee and snacks – and an information pack is provided by the Children’s Heartbeat Trust. The ethos is to provide little things that are easy to forget, hard to get in hospital, or just come in really handy.

“Thanks to the CHT and this initiative, mums and dads will receive Jake’s Ladybird Bag, and realise that someone cares.”

She added, “And the officers, boys and parents of Edenderry Anchor Boys certain care. They collected a wide variety of goodies essential for the bags and invited me along to the church hall to receive them.

“There was so much that my car was piled high with all the requisites, and I’ve spent the past week sorting them out into the attractive bags that will be stored safely and carefully for parents in this emergency situation. We really do appreciate their efforts, as most of the children are treated in Birmingham and London, and this helps them so much – not only practically, but it cheers that family that people are thinking of them.”

The ‘First Aid Kits’ are carefully and attractive designed ‘Jake’s Ladybird Bags’, which are airplane friendly, in that they can be carried as hand luggage on board planes heading for London and Birmingham. And they will contain the essentials for parents whose children are called in an emergency.

The need is estimated at 150 bags a year, and they were designed – along with special ballpoint pens and note books – by local woman Ciera Eakin of Graceland in Carn.