Stephen Lyness would have been 30 years old over the Christmas period. And in the 12 intervening years since he died on his 18th birthday - three days before Christmas 2004 - his family has raised a stunning £120,000 for his memorial fund.
Stephen died in his sleep and was found in bed by his dad Geoffrey. He had succumbed to the mystery condition SADS (Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome).
The Lyness family – Geoffrey, wife Catherine and daughters Jenny O’Reilly and Natalie Lyness – have channelled their grief into raising funds for research into SADS. And recently the women of the family made their annual pilgrimage to the London Heart Hospital and presented their latest cheque (for £5,000) to eminent researcher Professor Pier Lambiase and specialist cardiac nurse Eileen Firman.
The family has its tried and tested methods each year of raising cash for a cause that has helped them come to terms with the loss of Stephen - the annual cycle ride from Portadown to Scarva and back (along the Newry Canal towpath) and the X Factor song contest at the Tunnel Bar.
Both were an outstanding success, with Stephen’s friends and relations taking to the saddle, and with Sarah McVeigh proving she had that extra factor. Catherine took to the dance floor for Portadown Cares’ version of ‘Strictly’ about a year ago. She and dance partner Davy McCourt tripped the light fantastic, with each raising £1,000 for the nominated charities.
There will another dancing spectacular, courtesy of Portadown Cares in February, with Christopher Grimley and Catherine Liggett sharing the cash between Stephen’s memorial fund and the Children’s Heartbeat Trust.
In the meantime, there will be an individual cycle-thon for Stephen, courtesy of his friend Paul Kelly – a Preston North End and Glasgow Celtic soccer fan. In April, Paul will be riding the 200 miles from the Preston stadium (Deepdale) to Celtic Park to further boost the memorial fund.