Late Late Show host Ryan Turbridy did the honours to officially open Ireland’s first dedicated Children’s Cancer support centre on Oranmore’s Main Street on Monday.
The Hand in Hand Centre will provide priceless respite for families across the country with children who have been diagnosed with cancer.
And it marks a new chapter too for the charity which has been an invaluable source of assistance to distraught families since it was set up in 2006 by a Claregalway mum whose two-and-a-half year old daughter Caitlín was diagnosed with cancer.
Karen Doherty aided by a small group of friends and neighbours set up Hand in Hand to help others going through the same ordeal as they travel up and down to Dublin for medical treatment and try to keep the household together for other siblings left behind.
The centre will offer peer support groups for parents of children with cancer, peer support groups for parents for parents who have been bereaved and sibling support programme for the brothers and sisters of the children with cancer.
The new facility was made possible through so many fundraising initiatives—in particular this time from the Civil Service Charity Fund which provided a grant of €5,000 to carry out the refurbishment.
Opening the support centre is the next step in the development of the charity after the volunteer directors spotted a gap in services available to families.
But the charity is totally dependent on donations from the public and this year hopes to raise at least €140,000 to keep the same level of services in place. There is one full-time worker and another on a work placement with the service reliant on mainly third-party fundraising.
Hand in Hand pays for laundry to be done at a local launderette, organises for meals to be delivered, homes to be cleaned and arranges Garda-vetted childcare for the other children in the home. Other practical help organised by the group included before and after school pick-ups. Initially a service offered to families in the six counties of the west coast, from Donegal to Limerick, it has now been spread to fifteen counties and has so far helped out eighty families.