ONE of Larne’s most enthusiastic charity fundraising groups is celebrating its 20th anniversary.
Over the years, the local support group of the Northern Ireland Hospice has organised everything from fashion shows to storytelling evenings – and as a result has been able to send the fantastic sum of almost £460,000 to hospice headquarters for its invaluable work with adults and children with life-limiting illness.
The original idea of a support group for the NI Hospice came from Norah McAuley, who at the time was a member of the Carrickfergus group.
A public meeting was held in Larne to gauge local interest and resulted in the first official meeting of the new group being held in the Tudor Room at the Moyle Hospital on Tuesday, January 12, 1993.
The first officers were Rosalie Armstrong (chairperson), Norma McConnell (vice-chairperson), Norah McAuley (secretary), Betty Martin (treasurer) and Beth Hamill (minutes secretary).
Two of those present at the first meeting, Kay Alcorn and Edna Craig, are still staunch members of what is still a very strong group.
Edna said: “I felt it was extremely important to have a service such as the hospice and that if I, as an individual, could do anything to improve the quality of life for those people who required it, then it would be very worthwhile. The hospice is so dependent on support groups and volunteers.”
The group is extremely indebted to the people of Larne and surrounding area for their support and generosity over the years, those who ran, walked, climbed or organised events; for all donations, large or small, and for attending the many fundraising events organised by group members.
Also highly valued are those who remember hospice services following the loss of a loved one. The group is also very grateful for the support of many local businesses, especially Premier Power in the early days. BT decided to withdraw their sponsorship of the annual hospice walk after many years, and fortunately, the McDowell family at Kilwaughter Chemical Co Ltd began to sponsor the Larne walk in 2005, and thankfully they continue to do so.
The commitment and hard work of office bearers and members over the years is very much appreciated too, as is the hospitality provided by the Tudor Room, Age Concern, Highways Hotel and East Antrim Boat Club, which have all hosted group meetings.
Support group members have always tried to put the fun into fundraising and, along with a fantastic body of friends, helpers, husbands and sponsors, have raised funds through an amazing array of ventures.
Over the past 20 years, these have included the annual hospice walks, golf days, coffee days, sale of Christmas cards, collection days and quizzes, story-telling nights, fashion shows – including the memorable and rewarding real Millennium fashion show – wine tastings, designer shoe evening, auction, craft and collectable fairs, Christmas shop, cocktail nights, garden parties, butterfly competitions, treasure hunts, a gospel concert, painting in the park and other places, barbeques, night at the races, floral demonstration, Valentine dinners and dances.
One member ran the Belfast marathon, while one jumped from a plane – with a parachute – and also walked the Great Wall of China. There have also been times of celebration, such as a service of thanksgiving held in First Larne Presbyterian Church on Sunday, January 13, 2006 to celebrate 10 years of Hospice in Northern Ireland.
However, with 20 years of successful fundraising behind it, the group is definitely in no danger of slowing down.
Support for the work of the NI Hospice – both at Somerton House and at Horizon House Children’s Hospice – is as vital as it was back in 1993 and the Larne group, while looking back fondly over the years, is very mindful of the continuing need.
Members stress that is essential for public contributions and fundraising efforts to continue, especially in light of the re-development work to provide a better service and working conditions at Somerton Road and the ongoing work of Children’s Hospice.
The current membership now stands at 21, with Alice Crum the present chairperson, Roma Brown secretary and Davina Adair treasurer.
New members, young and older, are always welcome. Meetings are held on the third Tuesday of each month at 7.45pm in Larne Bowling and Lawn Tennis Club.
Iris Hagan, a long-standing member of the group, encouraged anyone interested to come along just as she did in its earliest days.
“I went along to the second meeting of the group and have been involved ever since. It has been hard work at times but also a lot of fun, and has proved extremely worthwhile. I have also made some very good friends over those 20 years,” she said.
Iris said group members enjoy plenty of fun as well as hard work. For instance, there are group outings in June, meals at Christmas and even a couple of forays to Edinburgh and Bristol.
To mark the achievements of the past 20 years as well as looking forward to many more fundraising activities, inaugural and current members were delighted to be invited to the Mayor’s Parlour recently by the Mayor, Councillor Gerardine Mulvenna, a past member of the group.
“It was a huge privilege to host the Larne support group as I was a member of the group and have personal experience of the fantastic work they do and the effort made to raise funds for this worthwhile cause. It was also great fun to be part of the group, and good friends were made,” the Mayor said.
l If you would like to contact the group, it can be reached through one of the following office bearers. Chairperson Alice Crum (028 2827 5034, firstname.lastname@example.org); secretary Roma Brown (email@example.com) or treasurer Davina Adair (028 2827 4643).