Kildress Health Matters gives a helping hand when it's most needed

Co Tyrone parish has come together to raise funds for local health charity

Andrea Begley will perform at St Joseph's church hall, Killeenan, Co Tyrone, as part of the March 5 fundraiser

WHEN someone is hit with a cancer diagnosis or lives with a debilitating condition such as Multiple Sclerosis, they can get caught up in a world of treatment and appointments at hospital and at home.

While treatment is free via the NHS, often the downside of going through the process is a loss of employment or drop in income; meanwhile, travel and accommodation costs can mount as cancer patients go through rounds of chemotherapy or radiotherapy away from home.

Initially inspired by a collective will to help one woman through her cancer treatment, a Co Tyrone charity has given a financial helping hand to families who most need it over the past 10 years.

Kildress Health Matters was formed in 2006 as a result of the funds raised by members of St Joseph's Parish in Killeenan to support a local woman who was seriously ill with cancer. One of the charity's main fundraisers, singer-songwriter Justin McGurk explains: "We learnt that a local woman called Dolores Connolly was very ill with cancer and needed a drug that was not provided on the NHS so the parish got together and raised £60,000 in a number of ways to help fund the treatment."

Sadly, Dolores lost her fight for life but her fundraising legacy has gone on to help 40 other local families and the purchase of six defibrillators for the parish.

"Since then we have had many fundraising events, most notably when our founder member Des Keenan completed a sponsored cooker push around Northern Ireland," says Justin. "Kildress Health Matters has distributed emergency funding to over 40 local families who have been in need of financial support due to a family member being ill."

Justin and Des are behind the latest fundraising venture for the charity – from which funds will also go to the St Joseph's church hall building fund – a gala concert at the hall on March 5.

Singers with local connections including The Voice winner Andrea Begley and Fame Academy's Malachi Cush will be headlining, supported by Justin and his band The Boogie Men, Gerry Loughran and Karl McGuckin. Guest speaker will be Mickey Harte, the Tyrone GAA manager who has led his county to All Ireland glory three times.

Justin said: "This is the first time we have had a concert in Killeenan church and it will be a very special event. I'm very much looking forward to performing at the charity concert along with the all star line-up of artists all from the local area along with Mickey Harte, who we are delighted can join us.

"Proceeds will be split between the parish building fund and Kildress Health Matters. Killeenan chapel is the perfect venue to host the event as it coincides with the 20th anniversary of the 'new' church in Killeenan."

Within the next month, the six defibrillators bought by the charity will be placed in churches, schools and filling stations in the parish, Justin says.

"It's through events like this concert that funding for these life-saving resources are possible."

:: Tickets for the concert on on Sunday March 5 at 7pm are £20 and available directly from Justin McGurk (0774 7692 749), Des Keenan (0776 8535 626) and Seamus McNally (0777 5617 630).

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