Dungannon mother raises £23k in just one week to get every child in Northern Ireland a present this Christmas
JUST four weeks after giving birth to her third child, a Co Tyrone mother has raised £23,000 in a seven-day blitz to make sure every child in Northern Ireland has a gift this Christmas.
Caroline O'Neill, a clothes store owner from Dungannon, took to social media to appeal for help after realising there was going to be a shortage in donations to disadvantaged children this year.
"Last week I noticed that the Mission Christmas box we had in `DIGG Childrenswear' didn’t have as many gifts as previous years, so I turned to my social media to encourage my followers to drop in a gift," she said.
"I know that a lot of people are short on time over the busy festive season, so I set up a fundraising link for people to donate and said I would then use to buy gifts on their behalf.
"I thought that if I could raise £500, it would help make a difference to some children who otherwise might not get a gift this Christmas - the thought of this just breaks my heart."
She was unprepared for the deluge of donations from the 10,000 followers on her Instagram page.
"The response from my customers and online followers has been completely overwhelming. In just three days we managed to raise £20k and the overall total after one week was £23k. In addition to this, thousands of gifts have also been donated."
Ms O'Neill contacted Cash for Kids charity which said it had shortages in the age 0-18 months and teenagers from 14-18 years.
"In addition to buying as many gifts as possible, we also wanted to spend the money in towns across the province and support local retailers," she said.
Towns and cities where presents were bought included Ballymena, Armagh, Portadown, Magherfelt, Omagh, Lisburn, Saintfield, Downpatrick, Dungannon, Cookstown and Belfast.
"I cannot even begin to describe the support we have received over the last number of days from the business community right across Northern Ireland who very kindly offered us great discounts and even provided additional gifts, for which I am hugely grateful," Ms O'Neill said.
There were so many gifts that she had to get a warehouse to store everything before it could be sent to Cash for Kids who dispatch the presents to children across the north.