Ireland

Keith Duffy presents award to founder of autism and suicide prevention charity

Keith Duffy presents Julia McKeever, founder of The Autism Hive, with her National Lottery Award (Bill Smyth/PA)
Keith Duffy presents Julia McKeever, founder of The Autism Hive, with her National Lottery Award (Bill Smyth/PA) Keith Duffy presents Julia McKeever, founder of The Autism Hive, with her National Lottery Award (Bill Smyth/PA)

Boyzone’s Keith Duffy has presented a National Lottery Award to a mother who founded an autism charity after her son lost his life to suicide.

Julia McKeever, from Portadown, set up The Autism Hive after her son, Luke O’Hara, took his own life.

Suicide is one of the leading causes of death for people with autism and The Autism Hive provides suicide prevention measures, intervention and post-intervention support for those with the condition and their families.

Ms McKeever set up the initiative in 2022, a year after the tragic death of Luke, who was just 25 at the time of his death.

Keith Duffy presents Julia McKeever, founder of The Autism Hive, with her National Lottery Award (Bill Smyth/PA)

She has now been recognised as the community/charity winner in the 2023 National Lottery Awards, which recognises the inspirational people and projects who do extraordinary things with the help of National Lottery funding.

Former Boyzone and Coronation Street star Duffy travelled to Portadown to present Ms McKeever with her trophy.

Mr Duffy has been fundraising for autism for more than 20 years through the Keith Duffy Foundation and has worked to help raise awareness for children with autism since his daughter Mia was first diagnosed with the condition at the age of 18 months.

Mr Duffy said it was “an incredible honour” to present Ms McKeever with the award.

“She is such an amazing and inspiring person,” he said.

“It is remarkable that she has been able to overcome such adversity and channel her grief into a fantastic project which provides so much support to those with autism and their families.

“This cause is very personal to me, given the work of my Keith Duffy Foundation, which is on a mission to make a meaningful difference in the lives of children and young adults affected by autism.

“It is truly disheartening how many families affected by autism are not receiving the appropriate support, guidance, intervention and education they desperately need. We need to change that.”

Keith Duffy described Julia McKeever as ‘inspiring’ (Bill Smyth/PA)

Ms McKeever said the funding was vital to the success of her organisation.

She said: “I am thrilled to have won this award not just for me and the team at The Autism Hive but for the legacy of my son Luke and other families who have had to go through the loss of a loved one.

“National Lottery funding has been vital to our charity allowing us to provide vital training to help support autistic people in crisis.

“It has helped us help others and I am very grateful for this support.”

Earlier this year, The Autism Hive received National Lottery funding of £6,176 from The National Lottery Community Fund to develop a “train the trainer” course focusing on suicide awareness for supporting an autistic person in crisis.

In 2023 more than 3,700 people and projects were nominated for a National Lottery Awards.

All winners will receive a £5,000 cash prize for their organisation and a National Lottery Awards trophy.