GAA Football

Jamie Joe Conway charity game raises £37,000 for local charities

Sonia Daly and James Conway are pictured with their son Jamie Joe presenting £18,500 for their chosen charities, Children’s Heartbeat Trust and Children’s Health Foundation following their charity GAA match at Ballinderry Shamrocks GAA in November

A STAR-STUDDED charity GAA football match, inspired by little Jamie Joe Conway has raised an incredible £37,000 for charity.

Last November’s game between an Allstar Ulster GAA select and Ballinderry’s Ulster winning team of 2013 was held to mark the first birthday of Jamie Joe and to raise vital awareness and funds to support Belfast-based charity Children’s Heartbeat Trust and the Children’s Hospital in Crumlin, Dublin.

The event was organised by James Conway, the Ballinderry clubman and former Derry midfielder along with his partner Sonia Daly as their way of saying thank you for the support they received when their youngest son Jamie Joe was diagnosed with down syndrome and a heart defect.

Jamie Joe received life-saving heart surgery last year in Dublin and has made tremendous progress.

Sonia and James have been truly touched by the support they have received.

“The event exceeded all our expectations and we are very grateful to the whole community who got behind us and donated so generously. It has been amazing,” the couple said.

“We just wanted to raise awareness of two worthwhile charities and help other families, like ourselves, who went through the stress and worry of having a sick child.

“We will be forever indebted to the amazing medical teams, north and south for their wonderful care of Jamie-Joe and we are delighted to be able to give back in his name.”

In a touching Irish News interview last October, Sonia Daly said: “I was told in the theatre that Jamie had features of Down syndrome. For maybe 10 seconds it was a big shock to me, but as soon as that baby touched my skin he was no different. I was his mammy. I loved him and that was it.”

James Conway also grappled with the news when Jamie Joe was born.

“I remember lying on the ground and ringing my ma,” said James. “She just said: ‘Don’t be emotional James. It’s a gift from God. Only a slice of people get to have these kids’.

“I went back into the room a half-an-hour later and I apologised because I nearly thought I shouldn’t have cried. Sonia was the strongest. After that, it’s honestly just normal to me. Every morning he’s in giggling with us.”

It was only a few months after he was born, Jamie Joe was diagnosed with a heart defect and underwent successful surgery in Dublin.

In thanking the Conway family, Lynn Cowan of Children’s Heartbeat Trust added: “Over 200 babies are born each year in Northern Ireland with congenital heart disease and the Children’s Heartbeat Trust provides practical, emotional and financial support to children, young people and their families affected.”

Denise Fitzgerald, Chief Executive of Children’s Health Foundation said: “We would like to express our deepest gratitude to Sonia Daly and James Conway for helping to raise the vital funds for the Heart Centre in CHI at Crumlin to help give every sick child every possible chance to survive, thrive and live to their potential. Your generosity will make a real difference for sick children from all over Ireland.”

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