Browns Bay charity swim tribute

Taking a dip at Browns Bay, Islandmagee are: Karen Loughridge, Paul Kelleher, Ruth Harron and Charlie Bonar. INLT 01-215-AM
Taking a dip at Browns Bay, Islandmagee are: Karen Loughridge, Paul Kelleher, Ruth Harron and Charlie Bonar. INLT 01-215-AM

A charity swim took place at Browns Bay on New Year’s Day in memory of little Erin Bonar and to raise funds for Whitehead girl Leah Goss.

Five-year-old Erin, from Ballycarry, died suddenly on St Patrick’s Day 2015.

Erin’s death saved the lives of four people after her heart, lungs, kidneys, liver and pancreas were donated to three young children and an adult.

Erin’s mum Susan said that her family’s decision to donate, at a time of extreme grief, was made easier as Erin was a “very generous and sweet young girl” who had already talked about her organ donation wishes after seeing an advertisement on television,

Jeremy Jones, chairman, of Whitehead Community Association, said that one of the main aims of the “super hero” themed event was to raise awareness of organ donation.

Dr Eddie Rooney, Chief Executive of the Public Health Agency and Chair of the Northern Ireland Committee for Organ Donation, stated: “Around 200 people in Northern Ireland are on the transplant waiting list and sadly around 15 people die each year waiting for an organ.

“Research has shown that families who are aware of their loved one’s wishes are more likely to donate their organs should the situation arise.

“Susan’s family went through the heart-rending experience of losing Erin, but her very moving story shows just how important it is to talk about organ donation. It means that if the worst should happen, your loved ones won’t be left to make the final decision.”

Proceeds from the swim will be donated towards the treatment of nine-year-old Leah Goss who suffers from Paediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcal Infections (PANDAS) and who was also diagnosed with NMDA Encephalitis.

Since Leah’s diagnosis, the community in Whitehead has given “overwhelming support” to fundraising towards her treatment.

Leah’s Fund, set up in October 2015, helped pay for a visit to a US specialist, as well as funding rehabilitation.

The Whitehead youngster has been undergoing treatment but could face longterm damage.

The association chairman said that a raffle held after the swim had raised £1,300 and sponsorship money is still being donated.

He indicated that approximately 100 swimmers took the plunge at Browns Bay.

“Whitehead has got behind these families. This was a well-organised event which was superbly supported.”